‘I loved my wife, not my lover’

2011-09-17 00:00

PALE and emotional, suspended police dog handler Morné Croeser (34) denied in the high court yesterday that he stabbed his wife, Erika, to death on August 28 last year.

He maintained he was “very happy” in their marriage despite his “numerous” affairs and an ongoing relationship from 2009 with local teacher Ruth Sinclair, whom he is still dating.

“I loved Erika … she was my wife,” he said under cross examination by state advocate Irene Neyt.

Asked if he loved Sinclair too, he replied; “I had an affair with Ms Sinclair”, but when pressed for an answer said he did not love her.

Croeser agreed that in the months prior to the murder while on border duty he SMSed Sinclair up to 15 times a day and that cellphone records showed he contacted his wife far less often. It was mostly Erika who called or SMSed him.

On his return from Mozambique on August 13 he secretly spent the weekend with Sinclair and only thereafter went home to his wife and children.

Croeser denied Erika Croeser was “not his ideal woman” evidenced by his criticisms that she should lose weight and colour her hair black, and said they had a “normal” marriage.

He claimed he only ever assaulted her once when she had a“tantrum” in the car. He “pushed” her backwards and his watch caught her lip, causing her to need four stitches.

Croeser denied his wife was afraid of him and he was unaware that she applied for a protection order against him.

He also denied ever threatening to shoot Erika and couldn’t explain why she called one of his colleagues and asked him to take away his firearm on one occasion last year.

He also did not know why Erika’s family were concerned that he always carried a firearm, saying he never gave them cause to worry.

He denied that he agreed at a family discussion to “get help” for anger management as he doesn’t have an “anger problem”, he said.

On the night of the murder he and Erika were alone as the children were staying with family. They enjoyed a night out at Amble Inn and did not argue, he said.

Croeser said he was parking the car when Erika entered the house. When he heard her scream he ran inside. “I heard her calling my name”.

He saw her lying on the floor in the laundry, hesitated, and then ran forward.

About a metre away from her he saw an “arm with a knife” come towards him. “The next moment [the knife] is in me and I’m struggling”.

The stab wound was very painful and he held onto the knife to stop the assailant pulling it out, he said.

Croeser could not explain why there were no holes in his clothing made by the knife, but said it was possible he may have “rolled up” the bottom of his T-shirt and jacket as he sometimes did.

He also disputed that an expert was correct in his assessment that the injuries he sustained on his hands were more consistent with his stabbing Erika than the scenario that he struggled with an intruder over the knife.

Replying to a suggestion that it was improbable for Erika to have been stabbed 14 times in the 13 or so seconds it would have taken him to get to her, Croeser said he did not know how long it took him and said he may not have heard her “first scream” because the car radio was on.

After the attacker fled, Croeser said he fetched his gun from under the mattress and fired a shot to attract help. He was in “two minds” whether to chase the assailant or go to his wife, but then went to her.

An emotional and sometimes slightly incoherent Croeser described how, kneeling next to his wife, he turned her over and then saw the “open gaps” in her neck, and blood.

He used cloths to try and “close the holes” and called for his neighbour to help, but for “an eternity” no one came. He also tried to give Erika mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

Neyt questioned why when help arrived, Croeser did not straight away tell his colleagues that there was an intruder and ask them to chase him.

The case will proceed on Monday.

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