Women Behind Bars

My husband lured me into crime, but prison saved me from killing him

It started with stealing money to cover the family’s debts – but then it escalated

01 August 2018 - 06:00 By Naledi Shange
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Image: 123RF/Siam Pukkato

It seems inconsistent. A paradox. A contrast so stark it defies belief. But a 37-year-old inmate is adamant that there is no truer statement: being in prison saved her.

Desiree Jansen* shared her story at the Johannesburg Correction Centre, otherwise known as Sun City. Her real name is being withheld to protect the identity of her children.

A day after stealing money from her company to pay to terminate her pregnancy, the Johannesburg accountant was arrested and jailed for fraud.

She said she had found her peace by being behind bars, adding that prison saved her from killing her husband, who she claims lured her into a murky world of crime.

Jansen said all was well in her home. Her marriage was stable, and she was happy at work. That was until her husband left his job, seemingly without reason, and forced her to become the sole provider for the family.

And once the family started to struggle financially, her husband lured her into crime. It started with stealing money to cover the family’s debts – but then it escalated.

“He took my bank card when I was at work. He was in charge of the money. And then all of a sudden the money was finished, but the house was still not finished. I didn’t know what to do. We started fighting; there was emotional and verbal abuse now.

“I didn’t know what to do. Didn’t want to tell my mom and dad, I was ashamed,” said the woman. “Then I found out he was having an affair and it broke me.”

Jansen was speaking during a visit to the prison by the Gauteng Legislature, aimed at uplifting inmates and restoring their faith in men.

She said she took more money from her company, thinking it would solve their issues.

“But it didn’t because my husband was just splurging out there, knowing what I was doing. He was encouraging me, saying, ‘If you don’t provide, I am going to leave you’,” she said.

“I kept fighting for my marriage. He promised me he would leave this woman which he never did. And then I fell pregnant,” she added.

As they fell deeper into debt, she turned to her father-in-law for a loan and her husband moved out of the house, leaving her to take care of the household’s finances.

At this point, her husband told her that he was not interested in having another child with her.

“The stomach kept growing and I knew I would not be able to provide for this child too. I phoned him and asked him what should I do. He said, ‘Get rid of it.’ I tried but abortion and divorce is against my religion as a Catholic, but I had no choice but to enquire about abortion clinics.”

At six months pregnant, Jansen said she found a doctor at a private clinic who was willing to do the abortion for R10,000. She called her husband, pleading for the money. He told her to “make a plan” and also ordered her to repay his father.

“I told myself I am just going to take this one last batch at work. I’m going to do what I have to do and then leave this thing. I went to work, did the transaction and the next day I took leave and I drove down to Vereeniging to do the abortion all alone. They did what they had to do, I recovered for an hour and a half and then I drove back. I was in pain, crying and didn’t know what to do because I just committed murder of my own child,” she said, sobbing.

“I phoned him and he said to me ‘why are you crying because you know I didn’t want this and just to let you know, my girlfriend is pregnant’,” she said bursting into tears.

The next day she returned to work and was called into the office.

“And that’s when they caught me out,” she said, through sobs.

“I know I had a choice to say no but I still did it because I thought of my children,” she said.

Ultimately, she was arrested and sentenced. But, she said, instead of wallowing she had used her circumstance to turn her life around.

“This place is not nice. My husband is out there and I have not seen him for the two-and-a-half years that I have been here. But I know God has a reason to keep me here because if he had not put me here, I would have committed a murder and murdered my husband… I found my peace in here,” she said.

Jansen is currently studying towards a BCom Law degree.

“I will go out there and be a better person because that mistake does not define me,” she said.

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