The Herald (South Africa)
Accused laugh as court hears grim murder details
TIED up, gang-raped, beaten to death. The brutal torture-murders of a Theescombe couple were described in stark detail in the Port Elizabeth High Court yesterday as their alleged killers went on trial.
And while the police and witnesses struggled to contain their emotions, some of the six accused laughed, looked with interest at the photo albums of the scene and chatted to their families. Only one of them, Vernol Fillis, did not smile.
Looking straight ahead, Fillis did not move a muscle as policemen described the scene and state Advocate Marius Stander apologised for making them look at horror pictures of the scene – many of the windows in the house had been smashed and the rooms were spattered with blood and glass.
George Venter, 78, was discovered in the lounge lying in a large pool of his own blood. He was beaten to death.
His wife, Cobi Venter, 67, was found near the front door, mortally injured but still alive. She died a few days later.
The accused, Fillis, 39, Mbulelo Breakfast, 31, Vuyo Plaatjies, 33, of Greenbushes, Makwenkwe Lunga Pamle, 24, Lukhanyo Bolo, 24, of Kuyga and Zonwabo Kilani, 24, of KwaNoxolo, all pleaded not guilty to charges of housebreaking with the intent to rob and rob- bery, murder, kidnapping and rape.
Fillis and Kilani exercised their right to remain silent. The other men claim to have an alibi for the night of the murders on May 31 or June 1 2009.
The couple’s domestic worker of 27 years, Rachel Tsitsi, cried as she recounted the morning of June 1 2009 when she arrived at work.
Tsitsi told the court Cobi would pick her up and drop her off at the Kragga Kamma Spar on the days she worked for them. On that morning she waited in vain. Two phone calls to the couple’s house went unanswered.
“At about 7.30am the gardener, Sihlahla Meliyasi, arrived there as well. I told him that we must walk to the house. As we approached the house I saw that all the windows on the front were broken. The sliding door of the lounge was shattered. I realised that something bad had happened there. I ran to the neighbours. They came back to the house with us. Meliyasi was shocked. He was waiting for us in front of the garage.
“Amanda Moore [the neighbour] looked through the dining-room window. Then she phoned the police.”
Sergeant Rudi van Zyl, who was the first policeman on the scene, said that when he looked through the diningroom window he saw George lying in a pool of blood. “His head was turned away.”
According to the indictment against the men, he had been beaten to death.
“I phoned for an ambulance,” Van Zyl said. “Three of the big front windows were broken. Moore told me her husband was in the house. He called out that Mrs Venter was still alive. She was lying near the front door.
“Her son came later and went into the house to cover his mom with a blanket. She was still breathing. There was a lot of blood around her.”
He said a broken bowling ball and a glove were lying on the lawn in front of the house.
Constable Nkokeli Mbana, who was the first policeman to enter the house, said that when they discovered Cobi she was struggling to breathe.
“There were bloodstains everywhere.”
The trial continues today.