Telling empowering stories, South Africans want to hear

Wednesday, 22 February 2023 11:13

The creators of 'Devilsdorp' drops trailer for 'Stella Murders'.

Lifestyle Reporter.

The murders of two Stella High school girls in 2018 send shockwaves through the country.

Sharnelle Hough (17) and Marna Engelbrecht (16) were murdered by Xander Bylsma, Sharnelle’s ex-boyfriend. Bylsma, who was 19-years old at the time of the murders, strangled the girls and then tried to make their deaths look like suicide.

Bylsma confessed to private detective Chris Saunders shortly after the girls’ bodies were found and was arrested after he handed himself in at the Vryburg police station.

In August 2020, Bylsma was given two life sentences in the North West High Court in Mahikeng.

Stella Murders is a new true crime documentary from David Enright and IdeaCandy, the director and production company respectively behind the breakout hit Devilsdorp.

Stella Murders investigates the deaths of best friends Sharnelle Hough (17) and Marna Engelbrecht (16) at their hostel at Stella High School in North West. On Saturday morning, 26 May 2018, Sharnelle was found hanged by the staircase and Marna was discovered in a bathroom, with both deaths initially looking like suicides. 

The 90-minute Showmax Original features interviews with Ronnie and Sonja Hough, Sharnelle’s parents; Stefaans, Rianet, and Riané Engelbrecht, Marna’s father, mother and sister; Captain Zagaries Human, the Stella South African Police Services station commander; Captain Markus Ferreira, the investigating officer; private investigator Chris Saunders; and Advocate Johan Smit, the state prosecutor, now retired. Also look out for Marizka Coetzer from Devilsdorp, who covered the Stella Murders case for Huisgenoot

"While working on Stella Murders, it became important for us to understand if there was any form of emotional healing for the families and community that experienced this trauma," says David. 

"It became clear that the impact of this tragic event was far-reaching and calls for important reflection on the culture that cultivates gender-based violence. Hopefully this documentary will not only highlight some of the red flags to look out for, but will also become part of the nationwide conversation about the shameful levels of violence against women in South Africa," he added.  

"Stella Murders is a heart-wrenching story," says Yolisa Phahle, CEO of Showmax and Connected Video at MultiChoice. "It deals with every parent's worst fear. The production was made with cooperation from Sharnelle and Marna's families, who hope their story will prevent similar tragedies."

Premiering on 17 March 2023 only on Showmax.