‘She was there every step of our misery’: praise for commander on a mission to restore faith in police
Among those left bruised, battered and emotionally scarred by gender-based violence (GBV), Lt-Col Marli Strydom is regarded as a mother and ray of sunshine and hope.
The 45-year-old seasoned police officer has served as unit commander for the Galeshewe family violence, child protection and sexual offences unit since 2018.
As SA observes the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women & Children campaign, the police service on Friday said it was paying tribute to detectives in the family violence, child protection and sexual offences (FCS) unit and detectives in the serial and electronic FCS crime investigations (SECI) unit, whose efforts often go unnoticed.
Strydom is credited with restoring faith in the criminal justice system for a Northern Cape family who were victims of a heinous act of crime in 2019. Their two-year-old daughter was kidnapped, raped, strangled and mutilated before being thrown in the Vaal river.
Police spokesperson Col Athlenda Mathe said Strydom provided up-to-date information on the progress of the search. She also supported and comforted the family and facilitated their counselling sessions.
She said the perpetrator, 40, was known to the family and at the time of crime had a protection order against him. He broke into the family home looking for his estranged girlfriend.
“When he did not find his target, a scuffle ensued and this led to children getting involved to protect their mother.”
Some family members managed to escape to seek help but two-year-old twins were left behind.
“When they eventually got help, they returned home to find the girl twin missing,” Mathe said.
“Within a few hours, the perpetrator was arrested and questioned over four days. On the fifth day, the perpetrator led the search party to where he had dumped the toddler’s body.”
She said in March 2020 the perpetrator was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences and an additional 21 years' imprisonment by the Kimberley high court.
Lt-Col Strydom was like no other police officer ... her passion and dedication to her work led us to get closure as a family.Mother of GBV victim
“Lt-Col Strydom was like no other police officer. She was there every step of our misery. She kept us informed and updated. Even though we can no longer see and touch our little girl, her passion and dedication to her work led us to get closure as a family. Colonel, we thank you for all you have done and hope other police officers can take a page out of your book and emulate and follow in your footsteps,” said the child's mother.
Strydom has been instrumental in the handing down of at least 20 life sentences and an additional 1,581 years of imprisonment sentences to perpetrators of GBV since 2018.
Born in Barkly West in the Northern Cape, Strydom has 27 years of service in the force after joining as a student constable in 1994.
She said her duty is to restore faith in the work of the police and justice system.
“My duty is to ensure my team and I leave no stone unturned to investigate and ensure the arrest of GBV-related perpetrators. I always encourage other members to serve the community with respect, consideration and integrity in a polite and friendly manner. I always ensure members act accordingly and always ensure victims receive full and accurate information and stay well informed of the status of their cases,” she said.
“Part of her responsibilities are to ensure that the most wanted GBV perpetrators are traced and apprehended to answer to crimes including rape, abduction, sexual assault, assault, assault GBH and child neglect,” said Mathe.
She said in October 2020 Strydom flew the police flag high when she was awarded second runner-up by public service and administration minister Senzo Mchunu at the National Batho Pele Excellence Awards in the category: Best Operational Employee.
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