Accused ‘could at least show some compassion’

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By MATT MEDVED

When Wynberg Magistrate’s Court E was instructed to rise yesterday, only a lone figure remained seated.

“It’s been a very difficult transition,” said Andrew Merryweather afterwards.

“Going from being an able-bodied person to being in a chair – I think only people in chairs can really comprehend and relate to the scope of the change.”

Merryweather, 25, was left paralysed from the chest down after a September 9 attack at a Newlands petrol station forecourt. He was a restaurant manager at the Theatre on the Bay and had gone out to Claremont with his younger brother, Nicholas, and a friend.

He has previously stated that he was beaten and used “as a human battering ram” against the wheel of a Ford Bantam pickup, which shattered two vertebrae in his neck.

His recovery required a titanium plate to be fitted to his neck and he has undergone months of extensive physical and speech therapy.

Samuel Davidson, Michael Enslin, Dane Killian, Justin Maxwell, Joel Thackwray, Liam Hechter and Oliver Scholtz, all 18 years old, face charges of attempted murder and intent to commit grievous bodily harm. Shane Woldendorp was cleared of all charges yesterday. All except one were former pupils of plush Reddam House school in Westlake.

The subdued court was filled with family and friends of both Merryweather and the accused. Merryweather sat next to his mother, Joy Merryweather-Smith, who glared at the eight accused as they were led into the dock.

None of the youths looked at Merryweather when they passed him on entering the court, or when they left wearing sunglasses and flanked by their parents.

“I’ve seen them a number of times in court so it’s not as daunting anymore,” said Merryweather. “But you can see how arrogant they are. Whether they played a role in it or not, I landed in a wheelchair. They could at least show some compassion.”

After the trial date was set for July 10, his mother broke down outside court as she recounted an SMS message that her son had sent her.

“He said that he feels like everyone is moving on ahead of him and he is being left behind,” she said between sobs.

“Can’t you see how much we are suffering?”

She wiped her eyes and said that she is “still wrapped up in the emotional side” of the aftermath of the attack, and found the legal aspects of the case to be “very difficult”.

“The one good thing that has come from this is that we have met the most wonderful people since this began.

“Our attorney Samantha Solomons has been great. We’ve really had a growing spirituality throughout the whole affair.

“Andrew’s positivity is what keeps me going. He has an amazing willpower. He is determined that he is going to walk again.”

Merryweather has resumed his work as restaurant manager and now lives in a cottage in Camps Bay with Nicholas and two aides.

As a Theatre on the Bay car rolled up to the kerb, Merryweather smiled at the aides and wheeled himself up to the open passenger door. He hoisted himself out of the wheelchair and into the car.

“I’m very happy with the case’s progress, but obviously the verdict can’t change my situation,” Merryweather said.

“It’s not just the loss of my legs; it’s not being able to do things, the loss of sensation and independence. It’s hard but I’m trying to put my best foot forward, no pun intended.”

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~ by Matt Medved on May 5, 2007.

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