Ex-cop to start jail time

2014-08-27 00:00

EX-PIETERMARITZBURG policeman Morné Croeser is on his way to jail for the 2010 murder of his wife, Erika.

A full bench of three KwaZulu-Natal judges rejected Croeser’s appeal against his conviction yesterday.

In a reserved judgment they said an “explosion of rage” probably caused Croeser to stab his wife 14 times in her face and neck at their home at Albert Falls in the early hours of August 28, 2010.

Then in a bid to cover up the murder he stabbed himself in his abdomen.

In terms of his bail conditions, the former member of the SAPS dog unit, and father of two young children, now has seven days to surrender himself to the prison authorities to start serving his jail sentence.

The sentence was reduced from 23 years’ to 18 years’ imprisonment by the appeal court.

Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel, with Judge Gregory Kruger and Judge Kate Pillay, said Croeser was not a criminal in the ordinary sense of the word, but had been a dedicated policeman with an excellent record.

The state’s evidence suggested Croeser had an anger problem.

There was evidence that when he and Erika were in the Amble Inn pub at Cramond that night they sat close together in a “spooning position”.

In the absence of premeditation “something must have sparked the attack”.

The couple’s neighbour, Gideon ­Nkabinde, had heard a “violent shaking of the security gate” which woke him up, and the heavy wooden wardrobe in the laundry fell over before he heard Erika Croeser scream.

“This together with the large number of stab wounds, and their positioning on her face and neck, suggest an explosion of rage to me,” said Judge Ploos van Amstel

The appeal judges agreed that a robust sentence was needed. However, the sentence should not “crush” a person, and should be blended with mercy.

What counted against Croeser was that there was no reason to think Erika could be blamed for his rage.

“She appears to have been a pleasant person, who tried her best to deal with his extra-marital affairs and displays of anger. It will not surprise me if his rage was caused by her saying that she wanted to leave him and take the children with her,” Judge Ploos van Amstel said.

“The attack [on Erika] was brutal and merciless. One can only imagine her terror when he stabbed her in the face. He not only took her life, he also did inestimable damage to his own, and those of his children and family,” he said.

Confirming Croeser’s conviction, the appeal court said Morné and Erika Croeser had a stormy relationship.

He was having an affair at the time and she had threatened to leave him and applied for a protection order against him.

He had threatened to kill anyone who wanted to take his children from him, and had an anger problem.

When she was stabbed 14 times on her face and neck, Erika Croeser was lying or sitting on the floor.

The wound in Croeser’s abdomen did not injure any internal organs but was a “neat, controlled wound, not inflicted in an attacking manner”.

There was no corresponding hole in either his shirt or his jacket.

Croeser had injuries on his hand consistent with having used a knife with a broken handle “in a forceful manner”.

There were no signs of forced entry to the house and no evidence an intruder had been there.

The neighbour heard the security gate being shaken, the wardrobe fall, Erika Croeser’s screams and a single gunshot. It didn’t seem like coincidence that the couple’s children were not home that night.

There were several improbabilities in his version, like the “strange behaviour of the alleged intruder who could easily have fled, but did not” and who disappeared “as if into thin air”.

After judgment was handed down, a relieved Francoisona Schafer, Erika Croeser’s mother, hugged family members who attended court to hear the outcome of the appeal. Schafer and her son, Francois (Erika’s twin brother) said they were satisfied justice had been done.

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