Richmond accused in court

2014-03-06 00:00

DISGRUNTLED and heartbroken Richmond residents were yesterday denied even a glimpse of the men charged with brutal torture and murder of three members of the Schutte family at the weekend.

This is because one of the four suspects appearing in court for the crimes yesterday is a 17-year-old youth and magistrate Thamsanqa Cele ruled that the matter be held in-camera.

He also refused requests by the media to be allowed into court to observe the proceedings, but after checking that police did not intend to hold an identity parade, granted permission for photographs to be taken of the adult accused in the case.

Ekard Schutte (77), his wife, Elizabeth (66), and their son, Lutz (33), were tied up and stabbed multiple times during their ordeal. Before fleeing with firearms and other goods in Elizabeth’s vehicle, which was later burnt, the killers allegedly doused mother and son with petrol and set them alight.

The Witness learnt yesterday that the juvenile accused faces another house robbery charge in Howick.

Richmond residents were angry at being denied sight of the accused.

“As usual, the rights of the accused are more important than those of the victims,” said a local businessperson who asked to be identified only as Delia.

“If he is old enough to do the crime, he should be old enough to be put on display,” another said.

The court was told by prosecutor Mxolisi Khumalo that two of the suspects — Zamo Maduna (19), who once worked for the Schuttes, and Siphesihle Vukuza Ngubane (20) — have indicated that they want to plead guilty to the murders.

The case was postponed for seven days, but could move sooner to the high court should the men enter guilty pleas.

The fourth accused in the case, Maduna’s cousin Njabulo Zuma (20), is charged only with possession of stolen property and unlawful possession of a firearm, which were allegedly left with him for safekeeping after the murders took place.

No members of the Schutte family, including their son Stefan, who found the bodies of his parents and brother, attended court yesterday.

Family spokesperson Karen Lowe said the murders were “too overwhelming and emotional” for the family. She said they are currently preparing for an influx of visitors from Germany and around the country for this Saturday’s memorial service.

One of the most unpleasant tasks the family had to tackle this week was to euthanase Ekard and Elizabeth’s beloved elderly Boerboel dog and cat, which were so attached to them they couldn’t be re-homed.

The family is looking for new homes for two young black labradors, Lowe added.

She said it had “hit very close to home” to discover that one of the alleged killers had worked for the family and even brazenly returned to work at Stefan Schutte’s home the day after the murders.

“The family has a lot of questions. They want to know why. What was their motive? It’s an exhausting and distressing time and emotions are very raw.”

Shop owners Delia and Kayleigh said they especially miss Elizabeth Schutte, “who always had a smile on her face”.

Lowe said the family will always remember Elizabeth for her hugs and the way her smile lit up a room.

Ekard — whose birthday they were to celebrate that weekend — was fondly named “master chef” by his family because of his passion for cooking.

“We need to pull together to get rid of crime in the town,” said resident Richaiye Jugree.

Restaurateur Colin Woodhead said the fear of crime is keeping people at home. He said Richmond seemed to be experiencing an increase in crimes such as housebreaking and muggings of late.

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