Daily News

Man gets life for killing his friends

- ARTHI SANPATH

LA­BELLING a for­mer bar­man’s ac­tions ”cold blooded and cal­lous”, a Dur­ban High Court judge sen­tenced him to life im­pris­on­ment for the dou­ble mur­der and rob­bery of two friends, who were Morn­ing­side flat­mates.

Twenty-four-year-old Gor­don van Niek­erk had pleaded guilty to the dou­ble mur­der of Daniel Rob­bertze and Ruth An­nicke Thofte at their Morn­ing­side flat in May last year.

He was sen­tenced to life for two counts of mur­der, 15 years for rob­bery, eight years for house­break­ing, three years for un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of a firearm and 18 months for un­law­ful pos­ses­sion of am­mu­ni­tion. All sen­tences are to run con­cur­rently.

In his state­ment Van Niek­erk said that on May 26, 2008, he went to Rob­bertze’s flat and they drank wine.

Thofte, Rob­bertze’s flat­mate, sat with them in the liv­ing room. Later Thofte went to bed, and he and Rob­bertze went into the bed­room.

“As we were drink­ing we were also mix­ing tran­quil­liser tablets with the wine to get drunk fast,” he said. When Rob­bertze fell asleep, Van Niek­erk saw an “op­por­tu­nity” to rob him.

Items that were stolen in­cluded binoc­u­lars, a lap­top and a dig­i­tal cam­era. Van Niek­erk said when Rob­bertze be­gan to wake up, he “pan­icked, pointed the firearm at him and fired one shot”.

Think­ing Thofte had heard the gun­shot, he went into her bed­room, where he found her asleep. “When I walked in I pointed a gun at her and fired two shots at her.”

So­cial worker Dombi Kh­wela of the Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment was called in to tes­tify af­ter ex­am­in­ing Van Niek­erk. She said Van Niek­erk was not forth­com­ing with in­for­ma­tion on his back­ground, and she had to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from his rel­a­tives.

Room

She said Van Niek­erk did dis­play re­morse for his ac­tions.

A key wit­ness for the state, Ashley Grey, said he met Van Niek­erk through a friend, and later of­fered him a room in his flat to rent be­cause the young man needed a place to stay.

Van Niek­erk came to his new home on the Thurs­day be- fore the mur­ders and on the fol­low­ing Tues­day he was ar­rested, said Grey.

“He brought in a small bag of be­long­ings, but made a di­ary en­try of things he was go­ing to bring such as a lap­top and dig­i­tal cam­era,” he said.

Pros­e­cu­tor Ria Mina said what made the crime worse was that Van Niek­erk knew Rob­bertze and Thofte.

She also re­ferred to the list of items Van Niek­erk made in his di­ary and said th­ese items were co­in­ci­den­tally the same stolen from Rob­bertze and Thofte’s flat.

Judge Sharmaine Bal­ton said the re­port painted no pic­ture of Van Niek­erk liv­ing a dis­ad­van­taged life, and said his up­bring­ing was much bet­ter than other of­fend­ers who ap­peared in court.

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