Girl ‘still alive’ when burned

2012-07-26 00:00

JOHANNESBURG — Louise de Waal, one of the murder victims in the “Sunday Rapist” trial was probably still alive when her body was set alight, the court heard yesterday.

Dr Gina Rowe, the pathologist who did the post-mortem on the 16-year-old girl’s charred body, told the South Gauteng regional court in Thokoza yesterday that there was soot in her bronchial tract, which indicated she was still breathing when she was set alight.

“Oh my God,” her mother, Shireen de Waal, exclaimed in the public gallery when she heard Rowe’s expert testimony.

It was the third day of the trial of Johannes Jacobus Steyn (36), the alleged “Sunday Rapist”.

Steyn is accused of murdering schoolgirls Louise de Waal and Lazanne Farmer. He is also charged with 11 counts of rape, 10 of sexual assault, 10 of kidnapping, one of attempted sexual assault, one of attempted kidnapping and two of assault. The 11 girls he allegedly attacked between 2008 and 2011 were all between 11 and 18 years old.

The 36-year-old pleaded not guilty to all 37 charges put to him on Monday. His counsel said he had been forced into making an incriminating statement.

“If he did not play along he would have been tortured,” Anton Lerm told the court. Lerm questioned investigating officer Peet du Toit during a trial within a trial on the admissibility of a statement made to a magistrate in Krugersdorp.

Lerm said Du Toit promised Steyn that if he made a statement and pleaded guilty, he would receive a short trial.

Du Toit replied: “Your honour, that is totally false.”

Lerm said Steyn was promised the trial would go away quietly.

“That’s absurd, how could I let the case go away quietly? It already had national coverage,” Du Toit said.

Lerm asked why Steyn was brought back to Krugersdorp only a day after he had handed himself over in Margate on October 13 last year.

Lerm said that en route his client was left in an idling police vehicle with weapons inside. He argued this was done to provoke Steyn to escape. Du Toit denied knowledge of this.

Du Toit testified that Steyn had phoned him from Margate the day after De Waal’s murder and said he tried to commit suicide. Du Toit told him to hand himself over at the nearest police station and not meet him halfway as Steyn had suggested.

Lerm argued that Du Toit had told Steyn he should go to a police station because he would be shot by police if found. Du Toit said this was untrue; he never said Steyn would be shot — he had handed himself over willingly.

Lerm said the police docket and what Steyn should say to the magistrate were discussed with him beforehand. Steyn feared he would be tortured if he did not co-operate.

Du Toit denied this. “I find that totally absurd. He had a smile on his face [when he was brought in].

“He was cool and calm. He greeted everyone by hand … He was not nervous. He said he wanted to clear his heart and was glad it was over.”

Captain Martin Smith was recalled and corroborated Du Toit’s testimony.

“The accusations that the accused are making didn’t happen before me.”

Warrant Officer Andre van der Mescht was the last witness called to testify yesterday. He was one of the officers who drove Steyn from Margate to Krugerdsorp.

He testified that they didn’t speak to Steyn and stopped only for petrol and once for food. He said they were pulled over at a tollgate by police and asked who they were and where they were going. The conversation took no more than five minutes.

Asked by the state to explain why Steyn was taken to Krugersdorp only the day after he had handed himself over, Van der Mescht said they had been working during the day and the night before. They then drove to Margate.

“It would have been very irresponsible to drive directly back with the accused.”

The trial was postponed for cross-examination and the conclusion of the trial within a trial today.

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