CapeTalk Celebrating 20 years
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2007: Janine Willemans recalls the Ellen Pakkies case

This October, CapeTalk is celebrating its 20th birthday by reliving some of the most impactful stories of the past twenty years, as told by some of our favourite personalities. Click here to view the rest of the stories.

In September 2007, Ellen Pakkies strangled her 20-year-old tik addict son in his sleep after suffering years of mental and physical abuse.

After committing the murder, she handed herself in to the Steenberg police station.

The case captivated the city and was "completely against the run of play", recalls Janine Willemans, former editor of Eyewitness News in Cape Town.

By that time I'd been a journalist for a decade, and I thought I'd seen it all.

Janine Willemans, former EWN Cape Town editor
Ellen Pakkies.

The story was a "vivid illustration" of the impact that addiction had on families, Willemans recalled, and said that the circumstances of the case offered journalists a different take on it.

The facts were on the table ... and it gave us more space to explore the 'why'.

Janine Willemans, former EWN Cape Town editor

Willemans recalled the heated debate around whether or not Pakkies was justified in her actions.

How could a mother possibly get to that point where she takes a child's life?

Janine Willemans, former EWN Cape Town editor

In 2008, Pakkies was convicted of the murder of her son. The defense requested - and the prosecution did not oppose - that she receive no jail time.

Pakkies received a three-year suspended sentence and 280 hours of community service - but she often recalled that she would have to live with what she had done.

As much as she didn't spend time behind bars, this is a life sentence.

Janine Willemans, former EWN Cape Town editor

Watch as Janine Willemans recounts the Ellen Pakkies case.


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