South African boxer and karate champion, Leighandre “Baby Lee” Jegels, was laid to rest by her loved ones in East London, in the Eastern Cape on Saturday.
“We will surely miss her and although we won’t be seeing her, she will always be in our memories and our hearts,” her sister, Shandre Jegels, said at the funeral ceremony in the town’s city hall.
The 25-year-old champion was shot and killed during the close of women’s month, allegedly by her police officer boyfriend, while commuting with her mother in East London, where she lived, News24 reported. Jegels is reported to have had a protection order against him.
The two women were on their way to a boxing gym in Mdantsane when they were confronted by her partner, according to Boxing South Africa (BSA).
Authorities believe that the motive of the shooting appears to be related to a “domestic dispute between the couple”, News24 further reported.
Jegels’ manager Mlandeli Tengimfene told the SABC the family felt let down by the justice system as it failed to strip Jegels’ alleged killer of his firearm.
“The system has failed us. I mean, Baby Lee’s mother even said it to the president the last time that he visited her, that she feels that she was failed by justice.
“One of the reasons was that on the interdict, one of the things that we said was ‘take [away] this boy’s firearm’ and it was not taken,” Tengimfene explained.
Jegels’ death came at a time when the nation was mourning the tragic killings of young women in South Africa, including Uyinene Mrwetyana, Meghan Cremer and Ayakha Jiyane and her three siblings – all acts of gender-based violence – prompting nationwide protests under the hashtag #AmINext.
Eastern Cape Sports MEC Fezeka Nkomonye-Bayeni told the public broadcaster during a memorial service held in the athlete’s honour that Jegels had taken all the necessary steps to protect herself from her alleged abuser, but she was still stripped of her life, as well as her bright future.
“She died [at] the hands of someone who she once loved. We are told that we need to get out of abusive relationships, Leighandre did. We are told that you need to apply for a protection order, Leighandre did, but even still that guy took her life.
“It is so unfortunate, she had a bright future ahead [of her]. We’re sure that she was going to make South Africa very proud,” she said.
As a result, the MEC hopes to establish a foundation in Jegels’ name for South African women boxers so that her “legacy does not die and her death is not in vain”.
Jegels is survived by her two siblings and her parents.
Her alleged killer has since died in a hospital following a head-on collision near Peddie, in the Eastern Cape.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) did not divulge the cause of death, however, it is understood he died as a result of the injuries he sustained in the crash, News24 reported.
– News24 Wire