What happened to Durick?

Durick van Blerk's family had a ray of sunlight in their ongoing saga when his baby daughter, Chaeli, was born a month after his disappearance. In this picture taken last year, are Edward van Blerk, Cleo Adonis with baby Chaeli and Christine van Blerk.

It has been more than a year since Hangberg fisherman Durick van Blerk went missing at sea and his family is still looking for closure.

The events that unfolded on the morning of August 12, 2018, are still unclear, but it has been alleged that Durick went overboard after a clash involving an Anti-Poaching Ptrol Vessel. 

There were rumours that Durick might have been shot during the incident by a Fishery Compliance Officer, but up until today, nothing has been proven.

The situation spiralled out of control when members of the Hangberg community attempted to go out to sea to search for the 25-year-old father, 72 hours after he had gone missing, but were allegedly stopped by police.

This sparked furious protest, resulting in a cold storage unit and a car, believed to belong to an official from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, being set alight.

The community continued to search for Durick.

On Sunday October 27, his family had planned to go out to sea in remembrance of their son, but rough seas and bad weather made it impossible.

Durick’s distraught parents, Edward and Christine van Blerk, have been struggling to come to terms with the loss of their youngest child.

The Sentinel made contact with the family, but they chose not to comment.

It was Edward and Christine who restored the calm during the violent protests at the time of Durick’s disappearance.

Community activist Roscoe Jacob, applauded their efforts, but wishes more information could have been made available for the family to receive the closure they are longing for.

“I think everybody would like to know what has happened to Durick. We need closure on this matter, for the community and most importantly for the family.”

Mr Jacobs said Durick had left a lasting legacy and became the perfect example for young men within the Hangberg community.

“Here is a father who went out to sea to provide for his family. He risked his life to make sure his family had a meal on their table and a roof over their head. Unemployment has most certainly gone up in Hangberg, but there are people like Durick who were prepared to go out there for the sake of their families,” Mr Jacobs said.

Durick’s girlfriend, Cleo Adonis, gave birth to his daughter, Chaeli, in September 2018, a month after Durick went missing.

At the time of Durick’s disappearance on August 12, she was eight months pregnant with their child and was looking forward to a happy life together.

The Sentinel also made efforts to gain some further insight from Ms Adonis, but she decided not to comment any further.

The two suspects arrested on the same boat as Durick were later charged with the illegal possession of 58 crayfish tails and seven whole crayfish during the anti-poaching operation, but the case was later withdrawn.

Reports suggested that the men’s case docket went missing at the time of their court appearance and their lawyer insisted that the state get their house in order and the case be withdrawn.

It was also later reported that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) had opened an attempted murder case against two police officials in connection with the operation on the morning of the incident, after the two fishermen with Durick laid a complaint.

Ipid spokesperson, Moses Dlamini, said they were no closer to finding out what had happened and would only be able to confirm claims that Durick had been shot if he or his body was found, also stating that the case had since been handed over to provincial authorities for further investigation.

Despite the ongoing investigation, the family only want to remember their long-lost son for who he was and chose to remember him by going out to sea, the last place he was seen alive.

The family also wanted to use the opportunity to thank everybody in the community for their support.