State of mind holds up double-murder case
HE BLAMES a double murder on a growing worm in his stomach. He still hears the voice of God. He has been out on bail for seven years.
Now, a new judge has finally decided to reassess whether Frans Seroba should still be out on the streets while he awaits trial.
Seroba is accused of murdering his wife Martha and sister-inlaw Sarah Makwati in 2007.
Makwati was gunned down at her workplace in Braamfontein in January 2007. Seroba had allegedly first shot and killed his wife at their home in Buccleuch, Sandton.
Seroba allegedly took their children, then 10-year-old twin boys, to his mother’s house in Diepkloof, Soweto, before driving to Seroba’s workplace.
Yesterday, Seroba’s murder trial was set down in the Joburg High Court, sitting in Palm Ridge, but another delay has left the victims’ families fuming after more than 20 postponements over the past seven years.
One aspect of yesterday’s proceedings comforted the angry relatives – the possibility that Seroba’s bail could be revoked as a result of a psychiatric report labelling him psychotic and potentially dangerous to society.
State prosecutor advocate Leonie Makoko summarised the reasons for the seven-year delay in her explanation of why the trial had to be postponed again.
When Seroba was first arrested in 2007, he was taken to Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital for evaluation. He was not diagnosed with any mental illnesses, and a finding was made that he was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions when he gunned down the sisters at two separate venues.
Seroba was declared fit for trial, but later he applied to have a consultation with a private psychiatrist, who diagnosed him as being bipolar and suffering from depression and “psychotic features”. The second psychiatrist declared Seroba unfit for trial and said he had not been responsible for his actions at the time of the killings because of a psychotic episode.
Simultaneously, Seroba’s case was once again stalled as he was sent for another 30-day observation at Sterkfontein by a new panel of psychiatric professionals. Again, the State psychiatrists wrote that he was able to appreciate the gravity of his actions, but that he suffered from a depressive disorder.
By this point, Seroba’s private psychiatrist had emigrated, and the accused insisted on legal aid providing him with a new psychiatrist. After months of waiting, the Legal Aid SA provided him with a psychologist instead.
But as Seroba had to be assigned a psychiatrist, this delayed proceedings even further.
The procured psychiatrist claimed that he had not been paid, and thus could not provide any reports on whether Seroba was fit for trial, but this was apparently because the doctor did not have a tax number.
Finally, a Dr Roux was brought in to treat Seroba, and his most recent report, from May, said he needed immediate psychiatric treatment and was unfit for trial.
This has now resulted in the State applying to have Seroba sent to Weskoppies Hospital in Pretoria for yet another evaluation, and if he is found unfit for trial, he has to be kept under observation there until he is.
Makoko cited the nature of Roux’s report and said Seroba was a danger to society and should have his bail revoked to ensure he didn’t hurt anyone.
Judge Tshifiwa Maumela said he was concerned he would be responsible if Seroba remained free and hurt someone.
Seroba’s lawyer, SW van der Merwe, argued that his client had never hurt anyone else over the past seven years he had been on bail.
Van der Merwe disclosed that Roux’s report showed that Seroba suffered from delusions. He still heard the voice of God, and blamed the original murders on a worm growing in his stomach.
“Who knows what God will ask him to do next?” asked Judge Maumela, who insisted he have time to read the mental report before deciding on Seroba’s bail.
Judge Maumela was to make his decision today.
‘DELUSIONAL’: Frans Seroba in the dock yesterday for killing his wife and sister-in-law.