Murderers planned it all

2014-03-26 00:00

RICHMOND farmer Eckhardt Schutte (76) was stabbed so many times that his killers can’t remember how many times they plunged their knives into his body.

After killing him, they lay in wait for his wife Elizabeth (66). When she entered the house with their son Lutz, they killed him first and then bound and gagged Elizabeth with duct tape.

Later, after forcing her to open the safe, they slit her throat.

The bodies of the mother, father and son were then doused with petrol and set alight, before the killers fled the scene.

These gruesome details came to light yesterday when the killers — Zamokhuhle Maduna (19), Siphesihle Ngubane (20) and a 17-year-old youth from Sweetwaters — pleaded guilty to the murders before Acting Judge Louis Barnard in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

The trio sat with heads bowed as the details of the brutal murders and robbery at Springfield Farm were read out by their legal aid attorney, Zina Anastasiou.

“I am deeply remorseful for my actions and I hope that the family of the deceased can accept my apology and regret for what I did,” each of them said in their pleas.

The trio said they accept responsibility for their crimes and begged the court’s mercy when imposing sentence.

Sentencing was postponed to April 22 to enable the defence to obtain pre-sentencing reports from social workers, especially in respect of the juvenile, who the court was told is 17 years and 10 months old.

Maduna, who was an employee of the family, confessed that he had masterminded the plan to rob and murder Eckhardt on February 28, the day before the attack.

He said he told his co-accused, who were his friends, that there may be money at Springfield Farm and they agreed to help him with the robbery.

Maduna said he acquired a container with petrol which he planned to use to burn the farmhouse to destroy any evidence linking him to the robbery.

They travelled to the area by taxi, and discussed their plan while walking to the farm.

Maduna said it was agreed that he would call out to Eckhardt, because he knew him, and would discuss buying wood from him.

“It was agreed that accused two [Ngubane] and three [the youth] would approach him from behind and overpower [him], and then my co-accused and I would kill him,” said Maduna.

Ngubane then produced three knives and gave each of them one.

“As we had conspired, I called the first deceased [Eckhardt] under the guise that I was there to purchase wood from him,” said Maduna.

He said Ekard came out of the house and asked them to accompany him to the shed where the wood was stored. Once there the youth grabbed him. As he struggled to free himself, Maduna and Ngubane began stabbing him on his body.

“Whilst the first deceased [Eckhardt] fell, I stabbed him in the neck. I cannot recall how many times the first deceased was stabbed,” he said.

They then went to the farmhouse.

Looking through the kitchen window, he saw that the couple’s Mahindra vehicle was not in its parking space and realised that Elizabeth Schutte wasn’t home.

Maduna said they found a safe in the main bedroom but could not open it, and agreed to wait for Elizabeth, suspecting that she would have the safe keys.

They later saw her enter the kitchen with an unknown man (her son Lutz, who had flown in from Germany).

Ngubane grabbed Elizabeth, while Maduna and the youth overpowered Lutz and stabbed him in his head and neck “to subdue him”.

“I do not recall if he was stabbed on his body,” said Maduna.

He said he saw his co-accused take Elizabeth to the main bedroom. They bound her wrists and covered her mouth with duct tape. All three then instructed her to open the safe, which she did.

Afterwards Ngubane slit her throat.

The killers loaded stolen goods including cellphones, a DVD player, and jewellery into the Mahindra.

Maduna said he’d doused each of the bodies with petrol and set them alight before leaving. They were arrested three days later. All said they had co-operated with the police from the moment they were arrested.

• Schutte family spokesperson Karen Lowe said yesterday the family was relieved not to have to live through the additional trauma of a prolonged trial, but they remain emotionally “very fragile”.

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