While cases of teenagers killing parents are disturbing and unsettling, experts say they’re often in the throes of psychotic episodes that parents may fail to pick up.
The recent case of a 20-year-old woman who allegedly admitted to planning the murder of her parents and two siblings in Mmakau, near Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria in 2016, could be one example.
The woman handed herself over to the police and confessed to having hired two accomplices, both now 23-years-old.
Onthatile Sebati was 15 at the time the crime was committed. It was on the 6th December 2016 when the community of Mmakau, outside Brits, woke up to the tragic news.
But five years down the line, 20-year-old Sebati has emerged as a key suspect. Residents are still in shock. Sebati handed herself over to the police and confessed to the murders three weeks ago.
“It didn’t sit well with us. We were just shocked even now. I don’t know what to say.”
“I remember the day the coffins came out. It didn’t matter how strong one was. Everyone was in tears.”
A police officer, his wife, their pregnant daughter and three-year-old son were all executed in cold blood. The surviving daughter, who’s now the main suspect, told the police at the time that she heard gunshots while she was outside disposing of the water she’d been using to wash dishes.
She said she was shot in the thigh after trying to investigate. She then alerted neighbours who called the police. She told them that she survived after pretending to be dead.
A family member who took Sebati under her care says it’s hard to accept her confession. Japhtaline Sebati was at the court when the young woman and two co-accused appeared in court for a bail application last week.
“I can’t sleep sometimes I wake in the middle of the night. I feel like I’m dreaming.”
Sebati allegedly hired hitmen to murder her parents and siblings using her father’s firearm. Police vowed to leave no stone unturned.
Police spokesperson Amanda Funani explains, “On the 16 December 2021, the now 20-year-old daughter went to Mmakau Police Station where she admitted to orchestrating the plan of hiring the hitmen to kill her family. She also implicated her two friends who are cousins. Tumelo and Kagiso Mokone of carrying out the plan. The two cousins were arrested on 17 and 18 December 2021.”
‘Signs parents fail to pick up’
The motive for the murders is still not known. A psychological expert Reema Nundlall says this behaviour can be driven by a number of factors.
“Some of the signs the parents fail to pick up could include unruly defiant behaviour, threats of killing someone whether it was a teacher or friend or even family member. Aggressive behaviour, depression or anti-social tendencies, are some of the behaviour 15-year-old could have demonstrated.”
The Department of Social Development has recommended that she be sent for psychological assessment. The three are facing five counts of murder, theft and armed robbery. They remain in custody and will appear in court again on Tuesday.