Gardener arrested for murder

2009-06-20 00:00

A GARDENER was arrested in connection with the grisly murder of Howick couple Alan O’Neal and Hannetjie Blom, whose charred bodies were found in thick bush on Beverley Farm at Dargle early this week.

Police arrested a 23-year-old man who was employed as a gardener at the couple’s residence at 26 Vear Road in Merrivale.

The motive for the murder is believed to be revenge, and sources close to the investigation have confirmed that the gardener previously had a confrontation with the couple.

“Some property belonging to the deceased was recovered in the gardener’s possession,” SAPS spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said. A second suspect is still at large, but the police said they are closing in on him.

According to Jacqui Davis, who lives in another house on the propert­y, the gardener previously broke into the couple’s cottage.

“Blom lost her cellphone a while ago and it was discovered that the gardener had stolen it. She told the gardener that if he returned the phone she would not press charges.”

The gardener returned the phone, but it is believed he was angry at the couple. Davis said the gardener gained entry through a back window, which Blom had open to allow the cat to come in and out.

Sources close to the investigation said the suspects waited for Blom and O’Neal to come home on Monday evening. “They broke in through the same window, but this time the window was closed, so he carefully removed the window pane. Inside he found beers and started drinking while waiting.”

Blom was the first to arrive and it is believed that the suspects held her and waited for her husband. O’Neal arrived later and he was also held. Both were bound and taken to one of the vehicles outside. There are bloodstains in the couple’s bedroom and it is believed that there was a struggle between O’Neal and the suspects.

Neighbours said they heard vehicles leaving the yard at about 5 am on Tuesday morning.

Budhram said the couple were attacked at their home and strangled before being dumped and set alight in Dargle.

O’Neal’s friend and employer, who spoke to Weekend Witness on condition of anonymity, said the killing was sad. “It’s senseless killing, they killed them for nothing. It’s time the government brought back the death penalty. Maybe [criminals] will think twice before killing.”

He said he had been friends with O’Neal for 16 years. “He started working for me in 2007 when I opened a business in Howick. He had been a lonely man and he married Hannetjie [Blom] in April and had become happier.”

O’Neal and Blom met last year. Davis said she introduced the couple. “I met O’Neal at his workplace, he fixed my gearbox, then I introduced him to Blom.”

Blom’s colleague Michael Stander said when she married O’Neal “every­thing fell into place for her”.

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