Submitted by admin on June 1, 2009 – 9:20 am
Nine-year-old Morgan Manthe‘s father, Freddie Coetzee – the former husband of alleged killer Wendy Manthe – was overcome with grief at her and her seven-year-old half-sister Willow‘s funeral this week.
The service in a packed Cambridge crematorium chapel was all the more tragic because their mother was not there.
Instead, Manthe, 40, sat in prison having allegedly strangled her daughters with a rope at Kayser‘s Beach moments after Morgan had frantically phoned a friend of her mother‘s to tell her what was happening. Manthe‘s attempt to take her own life by slashing her wrists failed and she was arrested.
“I was fine until I saw those two little white coffins and that is when the reality sank in,” Coetzee, 38, said.
The Cape Town-based truck driver said he was “gutted” when he heard his child had been killed.
“I still feel disbelief. I am trying to make peace, but it is hard,” said Coetzee.
The last time he saw Morgan was when he shared a meal with her and Manthe at an East London beachfront roadhouse in about December last year.
Before this visit, he had not seen her since she was about eight months old when he and Manthe had “gone their separate ways”.
“I had wanted to try to make up for lost time with Morgan. She was a happy, well- mannered, bubbly little girl. Wendy had done a very good job bringing her up. She was a good mom to Morgan and Willow. Morgan was anxious to come and visit me in Cape Town at some point.”
He said Manthe had been stressed at the meeting.
“She looked fine, but she was a little bit stressed out and said the work possibilities in East London were not so good. I am not a millionaire, but I offered to help Wendy with anything I could.”
Referring to the killings, he said he could not comprehend what sparked the tragedy.
“I don‘t know what went through her head. Maybe at some stage the truth will come out, but until then it is a guessing game.
“The Lord tells us not to hate or judge and I am trying very hard not to do that. I don‘t wish her (Manthe) bad luck, but I don‘t wish her well either.”
Coetzee said he and Manthe had been together for six years, two of them married. They lived in Upington where he had worked for Intercape and she had been the manager and bookkeeper at a furniture store. “She was on anti- depressants when I met her and couldn‘t cope without them.”
He said Manthe had moved to the Eastern Cape after Willow‘s father died in a motor accident.
“I never thought it would come to this – it came as a complete shock. It‘s going to take time to heal.”
At the funeral this week, the chapel was so full that mourners – some of them children in school uniform – spilled out into the adjacent garden.
Large framed photographs of the sisters stood on the flower-bedecked altar beside their small white coffins.
The girls‘ aftercare teachers and the priest read tributes to the victims
“Don‘t ever forget Morgan and Willow,” said one teacher, struggling to keep her composure. “They never wanted to see people cry. They wanted people to be happy. Heaven is blessed with two little angels.”
A letter from Manthe‘s younger brother, Dean Manthe, implored people to remember the little girls as they once were.
“Through the haze of disbelief … let us try to remember the joy and laughter of these two innocent children.”
His was the only reference to the mother who allegedly killed them.
“They are not the only victims in this. It is important to remember Wendy, their mother. There is much we don‘t understand, but this is not the time to seek clarity.”