Behind the scenes in Bredasdorp

Johannes Kana was sentenced to double life sentences for the rape and murder of Anene Booysen in a Swellendam court today. Eyewitness News reporter Chanel September takes us on her journey with both victim and perpetrator.

Hours after Anene Booysen's brutal rape and murder, with the heinous act still fresh in the minds of outraged South Africans, I set off on that morning in February with my sound recorder, iPhone, laptop and overnight bag to Bredasdorp. That first trip was the start of a journey for the next nine months that became part of my life.

My editor briefed me to stay in the small Overberg town, which is situated about 180 kilometers from Cape Town. The first part of the brief was simple: I was told to speak to residents and her family following the savage attack. The more challenging part of my assignment was trying to find out what made this town tick.

Driving there I knew very little about the 17-year-old girl who was raped and murdered. My fears of getting little information were confirmed shortly after I arrived. As I drove through the town, I randomly stopped people and asked if they knew Anene or what had happened to her. Many refused to speak to me.

Frustrated and feeling lost I went to the local police station where I interviewed a senior police official. I couldn't believe my luck when next I had a chance meeting with a man who knew Anene's family well. He took me to their house.

I walked into the tiny RDP house and found Anene's distraught foster mother Corlia Olivier sitting on the edge of the bed. Nearby was an ashtray filled with cigarette butts and a cold cup of coffee that had long since been forgotten.

Anene Booyesen's house in Bredasdorp. Picture: Renee de Villiers/EWN.

Only then did I notice some of Anene's other relatives were also in the room as I introduced myself. We chatted for a while - my way of trying to put this family who had been through hell and back at ease - before trying to do an interview.

Corlia told me I was one of the first journalists to interview her and that she wasn't use to this kind of attention. We both chuckled.

I was surprised at how quickly I was accepted into their home where I was made to feel most welcome.

It was great to get insights about this young girl whose brutal demise had shaken the country. I learnt that, like many teenagers, Anene and her foster mother often had arguments. The 17-year-old loved kids and wanted to be a mother someday. And Anene always got into trouble with her foster mom for dragging her feet when she walked.

A day before my visit to Anene's home, a young man by the name of Johannes Kana was being interrogated at the Bredasdorp police station after being taken in for questioning. He was later arrested and made a first court appearance that Friday.

Anene was laid to rest the following day.

The following week Kana appeared again in court, along with Jonathan 'Zwai' Davids. Davids, who was later acquitted, was arrested because Anene mentioned the name 'Zwai' before she died.

Johannes Kana was sentenced to double life sentences for the rape and murder of Anene BooysenPicture: Renee de Villiers/EWN.

Outside the court, relatives of both Davids and Kana told journalists they couldn't believe the two could be linked to such a brutal crime. Both families said they believed in their innocence.

This time, courtesy of his family, I got a glimpse into who Kana was - the 22-year-old who would eventually be convicted and sentenced for Anene's rape and murder.

He was described as a sports star who had traveled to New Zealand previously to play Sevens rugby. His family had high hopes for him as he had a matric qualification and worked at the local fire station.

Kana was a snappy dresser, had many friends and it was easy to see why he was so popular among his peers. Those who knew him were fond of him.

I wasn't surprised to hear in court later that Anene had a crush on him.

His popularity was again evident at an in-loco inspection held during the trial. Kana was treated like a celebrity when he arrived back in his home town of Bredasdorp.

He was there to point out locations of the crime scene but he lapped up the attention his supporters gave him. They arrived in their scores to shout messages of support and in return he gave them a thumbs-up.

By stark contrast, no mention was made of Anene. It was as if she was a memory they did not want to deal with.

Throughout the trial, Kana maintained he did not kill Anene. He confessed to kicking, punching and raping her but said she was alive when he left the crime scene.

The judge ruled otherwise and on 30 October found him guilty of both her rape and murder. Kana was sentenced to double life sentences two days later.

Even though I never met Anene or spoke to Kana, after working on this story so long I feel like I've grown to know them as people. I feel like in some strange way I was one of their friends.

During these past nine months I learnt that Anene's favourite meal was macaroni and cheese and that she was a quiet and private person, especially when it came to her love life.

I also know Kana has a cheeky smile, which he often flashed at times ahead of court proceedings when he spotted family and friends who came to support him.

I'm aware he has a new 28s prison tattoo that belies the promising future his family believed he had and that he loved nothing more than to hang out with friends.

As the saga came to an end I couldn't help but cry. I'm in tears because just like their lives had an impact on their family, friends and colleagues, Anene and Kana had an impact on this Eyewitness News reporter as well.

Those in positions of power now need to make sure they remember Anene Booysen as we approach 16 Days of Activism for no Violence Against Women and Children.

The fast-tracking of her case - concluded in nine months - illustrated that our criminal justice system can prioritise such cases if the will is there and thereby send out a strong message that the rape and murder of women and young children will not be tolerated. That much we all owe to the memory of Anene Booysen.

Chanel September is a Cape Town-based Eyewitness News reporter.

To follow her on Twitter click here.