Kirsty Theologo, 18, was lured by her Coloured friends to the Linmeyer koppies one October night in 2011. She was bound, hit on the head with a rock several times before she lost consciousness, doused with petrol and set alight as a human sacrifice. She died in hospital a week later from multiple-organ failure. Her best friend, 16-year-old Bronwyn Grammar, was similarly burnt, though she survived.
Bronwyn and her mother both gave consent that she be named.
Despite the fixation on these grisly details during the year-long trial of Lindon Wagner, Courtney Daniels, Robin Harwood and Harvey Isha at Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, evidence has nevertheless provided fleeting glances into the victim’s real character.
According to witnesses, Kirsty fought her assailants when they tried to tie her hands. She fought so hard it required three men to subdue her. And although she later died in hospital due to the severity of her injuries, she somehow found the strength to trek home after the attack carrying Bronwyn on her back.
To Kirsty’s family and friends, however, she was lovingly mocked as “Cleopatra” due to her obsessive preening.
To the four youths, she was “Braaivleis” – the term they allegedly used as code for Kirsty when they conspired to murder her.
Kirsty was the second eldest of Sylvia Theologo’s seven children, who grew up with a balanced regimen of maternal coddling and tough love. One picture Sylvia keeps in her bedside table shows Kirsty beaming at the camera, flanked by her siblings, and the centre of attention. Others are cropped out in a collage hanging on the wall.
It’s one of several reasons why those who knew Kirsty won’t buy for a second that she had wanted the accused to “drink her blood, eat her flesh, strip her naked and burn her”, as they claim.
Bronwyn, for one, rolls her eyes at the thought.
In court, Bronwyn would sit directly behind the accused, hugging a teddy bear to her chest. She took time off school to attend because she had been drugged the night she was attacked, and for a long time the trial was the “most important thing” in her life.
A couple years before the incident, Sylvia found out Kirsty was smoking dagga. Unsure how to handle it, she took her daughter to court and introduced her to a social worker based at La Rochelle’s Upper Room Christian Centre, where Kirsty met the people who would later admit to murdering her.
According to Bronwyn, she and Kirsty were the boys’ “teddy bears”, pampered and played with and loved. It was common knowledge that Kirsty had a soft spot for coloured boys and although she had a thing for Lindon, she dated Conlin. Another ex-boyfriend was State witness Lester Moody, who made a plea bargain to serve 12 years in prison in return for testifying against the accused.
It’s because of the relationship drama that Bronwyn believes Kirsty’s murder was motivated by lover’s jealousy rather than satanism. As it is, they all belonged to a Christian youth group. They enjoyed dagga and idolised American rapper Jay-Z.
In the months after the attack, one thing continues to haunt Bronwyn: how did Kirsty find the strength to carry her home when she was dying of her own injuries?
Bronwyn confessed to Kirsty’s cousin, Liesha du Toit, one night that she didn’t know how to feel about the fact that Kirsty expended so much energy to save her. Du Toit asked her to consider Kirsty as her guardian angel.
“Honestly, I think if I wasn’t there that night, Kirsty wasn’t going to survive,” Bronwyn said. “She wasn’t just thinking about herself. If she hadn’t needed to get me home, no one would have found out about (the accused) and it would have been a mystery.”
Instead, Kirsty’s case is now one of the most recognisable in the country. To the public, she will always be remembered as the victim of a “satanic” murder. But to those who knew her, she was “tough as nails”, the girl who couldn’t leave her best friend behind even if it killed her.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Sylvia complained while trying to summarise her daughter. “She was Kirsty. She laughed. She laughed from her soul, from inside her gut.” – IOL