Last month (August), Somerset West police bade farewell to a stalwart in the service who dedicated more than four decades to donning blue proudly and tirelessly fought the good fight against crime.
Detective Warrant Officer Hannes Niemand retired after 40 years in the South African police service, and 25 years of solving high profile crimes as part of the Somerset West Crime Investigation Division (CID).
“I am anxious about an unknown future which awaits, but I am content with the mark I have made in the community I believe I have served well and to the best of my ability,” he said in light of the new chapter.
For Niemand becoming a policeman was his “heart’s desire”.“Policemen were heroes in my eyes and I always wanted to become one myself,” he related.
Niemand joined the police on 10 March 1980 and, as a student, worked at Strand police until June that year when he embarked on his training at the Police College in Pretoria for six months (from July to December). He worked in Pinelands from December until June 1981, before being stationed at Strand police until 1986, when he joined the Dog Unit in Gordon’s Bay as a dog handler.
In 1992, Niemand played rugby for the police, and represented them in Western Province leagues until he broke his neck in a scrum. Fortunately, doctors could repair the damage and prevent any paralysis. But as result of the injury Niemand could no longer work as a dog handler, and opted to join the detective branch. From 1995 up until his retirement he investigated serious and violent crimes as part of the Somerset West CID, which back then operated from the Sam Newman Building in Main Road.
“Being a policeman was my heart’s desire and definitely a calling I gladly answered out of a passion to become someone who could serve and protect his community,” Niemand said.
Born in Somerset West on 9 July 1961, he was one of four children. His three siblings are Gerhard Niemand (a retired captain from Kraaifontein police, whom he had the privilege to swear into the service), Magdaleen van Jaarsveld and Francois Niemand, who also served the police service.
Although it may appear being a policeman was hereditary, their late father was a businessman working in transport and their late mother a housewife. Niemand praised his late parents for teaching him to treat others with respect and discipline as part of a good moral foundation. He started his schooling at Hendrik Louw Primary in Strand and matriculated from Strand High School.
Niemand’s work ethic is nothing short of exemplary, with hard work and perseverance the cornerstone and a determination to leave no stone unturned. It has resulted in many highlights and successes in his career. Niemand played an instrumental role in the investigation of high-profile cases, including the murder of Dr Louis Heyns whose body was found in a shallow grave at Strand Beach, the Knott and Holmes murders, the Macor mother who staged the kidnapping of her two sons, who were later found on Helderberg Mountain, a fatal train accident at Croydon in which 19 people were killed, two aircraft crashings at Vergelegen Wine Estate, and the devastating explosion at Rheinmetall Denel Munition, which claimed eight promising lives.
“All the good results and convictions I had after successfully completing my investigations will always remain the highlight of my career. I was also part of the ‘Catch of the Year’ Prestige Awards team after the Boland Bank robbery in Strand. I was presented with the Sports Person Prestige Award for 2019 and achieved Springbok/Protea Colours in Darts.”
Niemand’s never-say-die attitude saw him through many work challenges and obstacles, including the neck injury, a stroke suffered while working on the Dr Louis Heyns murder case on 1 September 2014 (which, he added, did not prevent him from testifying against the accused in court or witness their sentencing), and a big fall that left his right femur fractured in three places on 27 September 2018 – two days before he would have left the police on early retirement, but considered it a sign to push forward. Nothing could quench the fiery passion to serve and protect, and see a case through to conviction. Furthermore, the noticeable appreciation and gratitude of the families and victims involved in a case is satisfaction enough. “Sometimes we take our work for granted, but when one experiences this it makes up for everything,” he said.
Niemand bows out with the following message to his beloved colleagues and the community: “Keep your chin up and fight the good fight in keeping criminals away from our beautiful town even though if sometimes feel that you are not appreciated. The public recognises the good work done. Follow and reach your own goals. “Please assist members in keeping an eye on your surroundings to prevent crime. Thank police members for what they do and mean to the community. This makes a huge difference. Even a small gesture such as an email, or even popping in at the station and thanking the members in person, make the world of difference. I wish to thank all those who personally know me or whom I had dealings with during my career. Thank you for your support.”
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