Cape Town toddler shot dead while playing on uncle’s lap

The first of a volley of bullets which rung out in Retreat on Sunday night claimed the life of a little boy, who was hit in the head while he was playing on his uncle’s lap.

Baby Tashwell “TJ” Nel, aged 1, died at the Retreat day hospital a short while later.

His heartbroken grandmother, Joline Middleway, had been sitting on the stoep of her Komlossy Street house at about 20:00 when her son bundled the children into their car to take them to a relative who lived a street away.

The teenager had been playing with his nephew in the driver’s seat when a car pulled up and the shots rang out, Middleway said.

“We all heard that first [shot] and we fell to the ground. My son said he had grabbed Tashwell’s head and forced it down, but he had already been hit. His hand was wet with TJ’s blood.”

‘Shots just went on and on’

The baby boy’s mother had run out to her children who were crouched in the car parked in front of the gate. The gunfire continued, and she was hit in the arm.

“I heard more than 20 shots. It just went on and on. When it was over, I went to the car and took him. He was wearing his blue gown. He was covered in blood. I couldn’t even see where the bullet had hit him.

“He didn’t make a sound when I held him. His eyes were half closed and I thought he was gone. I handed TJ to his dad, who just cried and held him before shouting that his son was still alive.”

A neighbour took the father and son to the Retreat day hospital, while another took the child’s mother to Victoria Hospital to be treated for a gunshot wound to her arm.

When Middleway arrived at the local emergency facility, staff were fighting for her grandson’s life. She left to collect Tashwell’s mother, who was allowed to leave and be with her son even though the bullet was still lodged in her arm.

When they got to the day hospital, the toddler had already died.

Tashwell’s parents were inconsolable, Middleway said, as she shook her head.


TJ was so friendly. He was very clever and cute.


“I can’t believe this happened to him. TJ was so friendly. He was very clever and cute. He could walk and talk and knew everyone’s names,” his doting grandmother said fondly.

On Monday morning, his parents went to the Salt River mortuary to identify his body.

The grandmother said her grief was compounded by the fact that she was still not over the death of her 20-year-old son, who had been shot dead four years ago.

TJ had been named after “[her] Tashwell”, who was shot and killed months before his 21st birthday.

His killers have never been caught.

She does not deny that murdered Tashwell had been involved in gangsterism, but says her remaining sons were not interested in or involved in crime.

Gangs have been shooting in their area for weeks, Middleway said. There are casualties “every few days”.

“My children don’t even want to walk outside. Because here, if the gangsters feel that today you die, then you die. They are God himself.”


Joline Middleway shows a photo of her murdered grandson Tashwell Nel. (Tammy Petersen)

Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said cases of murder and attempted murder were under investigation.

Tashwell’s murder comes a month before four people are tried for the murder of six-month-old Zahnia Woodward, who was killed in a park in Ocean View in December 2016.

Christopher September, Larry Johnson, Taswill Kriel, Morné May, Simaney Kido and Mirriam Johnson will appear in the Western Cape High Court on August 6.

Zahnia was hit by a stray bullet while on her father’s arm. Her father had reached for her dummy, which she had spat out, when she was hit in the head.

He was also shot in the thigh, but managed to drive his daughter to the hospital.

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