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These poor parents from Bethlehemspoort, DANIEL JACOBUS VAN HEERDEN AND HESTER SOPHIA VAN WYK, parents of three children, one called CORNELIUS JOHANNES PAULUS VAN HEERDEN, only 22 years old suddenly faced a hellish predicament in November 1931...

Their son, Cornelius, was not allowed to be buried in the town of Bethlehem's Cemetery, probably to the good judgment (sarcarsm)of the decision makers at the time.

I have researched the case of Cornelius Johannes Paulus van Heerden born 1909 and died by his own hand 1931.

November 1931 started badly for van Heerden, by the 4th he was already in court because he was accused of theft by his father, He "bought" goods with his father's signature which he forged, he received a shortened sentence with mitigating circumstances because it was his first offence. He was later also in court for reckless driving, Bennet explained that a man's leg had to be amputated in this accident and he recently lost his job due to absent days at the then South African Railway.

The van Heerden’s lived as a normal happy family in Bethelehemspoort smallholdings just outside the town border. Although the suicidal notes show he was not happy, and even had a hand written will included, this fatal dark day in November 1931.

The assumption was that on the morning of the 26th he had someone in particular that he might have wanted to kill, but his secret died with him that day, although there are a few stories floating around, some family I spoke to say the family legend only says that his soul must have been possessed or he was out of his mind. He went to buy 50 rounds of ammunition for his Winchester and a few cartridges for his rifle in the town, at Bisshops' store, and just told his brother he was going to shoot. It was not unusual for those years to buy or use ammunition.

It was almost noon on 26 November 1931 and Cornelius suddenly stopped a oncoming car and wanted to take it from the owner, but the owner refused and was shot dead on the spot. John Edward Darby (50) is murdered in cold blood. Darby, a commercial traveller from England, but lived in Essenwood Street in Durban's DN shows murder with a close shot to the head. Darby is survived by husband Lillian Bristow and 4 children. After that, Cornelius just moved Darby's body aside and drove on. My common sense and medical background tells me that no sane person could do this and he must have had serious psychological problems and definitely 'lost his sense of judgement' that day. He wrote letters because he wanted to commit suicide, the day before.

Darby -

His next victims, facing the murderous barrel of Cornelius's revolver, were Boer War General Anthonie Michael Prinsloo, (69) husband of Maria Grobler, he was busy planting trees, the South African Biographical Dictionary calls him the Hero of Colesberg and Elandsfontein, he left behind 10 of his 12 children (he lost 2 in a concentration camp), Jackie Grobler writes in ‘Oorlog nuusblad pg 207 Magiel or Rooi Magiel, youngest son of Nicolaas Frans Prinsloo and Isabella Rautenbach and was the brother of Chief Commander Marthinus Prinsloo.

Unexpectedly also 2 passers-by, Mpaw (13) and Petrus (23)were also killed that day by van Heerden, near Prinsloo. They were shot drive-by style..

In the Bethlehem, OVS death books, the 1931 death certificates I found neatly written one after the other, five people who died that obscure day, and surprisingly I found on all 5 DN’s, they died all of HEAD SHOTS, I sound surprised, because in an old book, Bennet briefly writes in his book, he was not as good a shooter as Swart was, but he was.

Van Heerden, Darby, Prinsloo, Mpaw and Petrus died that day, there are other reports that give different numbers, but I only found 5. Apparently a few people more (? about 4) were also wounded. In Bennet book he mentions 2 injured, only as Swart and du Plooy.The inquest ended on 14 December 1931, and each of the above. The notes show Cornelius Johannes Paulus Van Heerden as the murderer.

SK - from here go right with arrow

By this time the Police were already hot on Heerden's tail, he was apparently then trapped by the River that has just flooding, and realizes they are right behind him and there trapped in a virtual corner he shoots himself. At the time, the Daily News wrote about the 'Maniac' and that van Heerden's body on top of Darby comes to mind.

Prinsloo was apparently the big ‘NEWS’ in those years and his family refused for Van Heerden to be buried in the same cemetery as Prinsloo, so the poor parents of Heerden sat with their hands in their hair because shame he couldn't be laid to rest on the farm either, DUE TO SCANDEL. They knocked at the railway door for help and asked if he could be buried somewhere along the track, he used to work for. He worked on the railway in the sheds, and they agreed. Attached are his grave and the link to the post. Also attached is the 'google maps' photo I took of the area. (-28 09.280, 28 20.373) Here is the grave link with the words: "THE MURDERER WAS BURIED IN A GRAVE WHICH FRONTS WEST."

Graf -

There among the dry grass, alone you will find the broken, unkempt grave, one can hardly read anything, of a man who clearly needed help, and was thrown out and rejected, even after death by the community.

There, near Theron Golf course today, Bethelehem, a stone Mound was then erected for Prinsloo with a plate that clearly has the wrong dates on it, where he died at the time. He was buried in the old town cemetery and funnily enough, they got the date wrong there too. His DM obituary has the correct date of 26 November 1931.

Steenhoop -



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