I killed her, Vather confessed

2008-04-22 00:00

Murder accused Nico Vather (35) told his landlady, Martha van der Merwe, he was “sorry” for having killed his wife, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard yesterday.

Van der Merwe told Judge Piet Koen and two assessors that Vather rented a flat on her property in Prestbury, where Valentia Vather (38) was found stabbed to death on the morning of November 3, 2005.

She said Vather was a good tenant who always paid his rent on time.

About three weeks before the murder, he had told her that his wife and child would be moving in with him.

Van der Merwe said she and her daughter were alone in the house on the night of the murder. Her daughter was writing her matric exams and was still up studying when the alarm control panel in the bedroom indicated that the “outside” beam in the garden had been triggered at about 9.45 pm.

She looked through the lounge window, but saw nothing unusual. When the alarm company called, Van der Merwe asked them to stay on the line while she went outside to investigate.

Van der Merwe said she let her two Rottweiler dogs out to check the yard, but everything seemed to be alright, so she told the security firm there was no need to send the armed response out.

Van der Merwe said later it did strike her as strange that the windows of the Vathers’ flat were all closed as it was a very hot night.

She said Vather’s motorcycle was not parked in its usual spot outside the garage at the time.

The next morning when she opened the curtains, she saw policemen outside her gate. As she was not dressed, her daughter went out to see what was going on. A short while later she returned, accompanied by a policeman and Vather.

Her daughter appeared “upset” and said repeatedly: “He killed her”.

“I asked him: ‘Nico, is it true? Did you do it?’. He replied, ‘I’m sorry, I killed her’. I then said to him: ‘You should be sorry for the child. You took his mother from him’,” Van der Merwe testified.

When it was suggested to her by Vather’s defence advocate, Di Franklin, that Vather will deny saying these words to her, Van der Merwe responded: “Then he is lying. Why on Earth should I come here and lie under oath? I have absolutely no reason at all to lie.”

The investigating officer, Inspector Philip Lemmer, testified that when he saw Vather at the murder scene, Vather made “certain statements” and indicated that he wanted to “make a confession”.

Lemmer said Vather was agitated and nervous, but coherent.

Lemmer explained Vather’s legal rights to him and explained to him that he would be given an opportunity to make a statement if he wished, but that he would first be taken to the district surgeon for blood and other tests to be done and samples taken for DNA testing.

He said that later that day, when he again interviewed Vather in an office, along with his commanding officer and other policemen, Vather started to make a statement, but then “digressed” and his speech became “garbled”. He started talking about hearing “voices”.

Lemmer said Vather was later referred for mental observation by a magistrate.

On December 6, 2005, he was asked to escort Vather to Grey’s hospital for a CT scan.

It was then that Vather mentioned the name “Yasmin Shaik” for the first time in connection with his wife’s murder.

Lemmer said the version he gave then “differs” from that given by Vather in his plea explanation in court (that he left his wife at home in Shaik’s company on the night she died).

The case is proceeding.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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