Judges ponder cop’s conviction

2014-08-02 00:00

DID former Pietermaritzburg policeman Morné Croeser brutally stab his wife ­Erika 14 times in the face and on her neck and then try to cover it up by stabbing himself in his abdomen?

Was the murder the work of an enraged husband, or were the couple both victims of a violent intruder they’d disturbed in their home at Albert Falls?

These are the questions being debated by three KwaZulu Natal judges (Gregory Kruger, Johan Ploos van Amstel and Kate Pillay) who yesterday reserved judgment on Croeser’s appeal against his conviction and sentence.

Judge Esther Steyn had found in 2012 that circumstantial evidence proved conclusively that Croeser was guilty of the murder and that he had stabbed himself in the stomach to mislead the police. His wife died in the early hours of August 28, 2010.

The evidence showed the knife handle broke off as a result of the force used.

She sentenced him to 23 years in jail in January 2012.

A telling piece of evidence against Croeser was the fact that there was no puncture in the shirt he wore when he claimed an intruder stabbed him, and lack of serious injuries to him despite an allegedly violent struggle between him and the assailant.

At the time Croeser was admittedly involved in an ongoing affair with another woman. Family members testified that he had an “anger management” problem and he’d allegedly threatened to “kill” any­one who tried to take away his two children. Erika had taken steps shortly before the murder to get a protection order against Croeser and had threatened to leave him.

Steyn however found the evidence fell short of proving that Croeser planned the murder days in advance, as was suggested by the prosecution.

The courtroom was crowded yesterday as Croeser, family and friends and the family of his late wife listened ­anxiously to legal arguments presented for and against his conviction by state advocate Dorian Paver and defence advocate Murray Pitman.

Pitman urged the appeal court to rule that Steyn was wrong to find there were no independent signs of an intruder.

He submitted the trial court had ­ignored other evidence that supported Croeser’s version.

The jail sentence was “too robust” and did not take account of Croeser’s good record as a policeman and his prospects of rehabilitation, he added.

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