Naidoo a pathological liar - judge
Durban - Mathew Naidoo was a pathological liar who began plotting the murder of his girlfriend's parents when her father rejected him as a suitable partner for his daughter, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court heard on Tuesday.
Judge Shyam Gyanda said this when he found Naidoo, 25, Nicolette Lotter, 29 and her brother Hardus, 23, guilty of murdering the siblings' parents, Maria Magdalena "Rickie" Lotter, 52 and Johannes Petrus "Johnny" Lotter, 53 in their Westville, Durban home on July 19 2008.
Sentencing proceedings would begin on Monday. The siblings, who pleaded not guilty to the double murder, admitted killing their parents.
They however said they were under Naidoo's influence.
He convinced them he was the third son of God and had prophetic powers, and that God wanted their parents dead for their sins. Naidoo denied telling them this.
Gyanda, sitting with two assessors, said it was abundantly clear from handwritten letters authored by Naidoo that he had portrayed himself as the third son of God.
The judge said the question had been asked many times during the trial about how it was possible for educated, sophisticated people in a middle-class, church-going family to allow themselves to be influenced.
He recalled that expert witness, clinical psychologist professor Lourens Schlebusch, had told the court this sort of brainwashing had been used to "remould" and "realign" religious people - doctors, lawyers, businessmen - to get them to do things considered stupid.
The judge said the Lotter's belief in Naidoo's powers was a mitigating circumstance, and may or may not have resulted in them having diminished criminal capacity.
"But certainly not exclude them from criminal liability," he said. He believed the killings began when Mr Lotter refused to accept Naidoo as a consort for his daughter.
The judge said that another turning point was when the parents had money stolen from their wallets and handbag, and the police were called in.
A quarrel between Mrs Lotter and Naidoo followed. The court had heard she called him a "dark horse".
The judge said Naidoo was trying to fleece the Lotters and access Nicolette's inheritance.
Hardus, who had been instructed by Naidoo to commit suicide after the murder, was the fall guy, the judge said.
Naidoo was a glib character who fancied himself. He was arrogant and thought he could mislead lawyers.
Nicolette was fertile ground for his thought processes.
She was a troubled person who believed her domestic worker was practising witchcraft on her and was being "spiritually raped" by a tokoloshe, and her hair was being ripped from her head.
She tried to get help, but unfortunately her parents did not believe she was being affected by black magic. They warned her pastor, who she had wanted to turn to for help, that she was seeking attention.
She eventually met Naidoo and the spirit left her when they had sex. The judge said Naidoo clearly saw her vulnerability and the opportunity to take advantage of her. Her brother was initially wary of Naidoo.
"In the same way his father did not accept him, but Naidoo later manipulated him, changed his attitude towards his parents and played on his emotions by saying that he, Naidoo, was a victim of apartheid and his own family fed him bad food," said the judge.
"Eventually Hardus regarded Naidoo as the brother that he did not have. He was fertile ground in which to plant ideas."
The judge said Naidoo made the siblings believe killing their parents would be a good thing as they were standing in the way of God's work.
Saying that Naidoo was a pathological liar, the judge said his conduct was that of a conman who obtained information from people at a moment of weakness and used it later to forecast the future.
"We may think this is laughable and ridiculous, but we have expert testimony that thousands of people are conned by charismatic leaders into believing they have supernatural powers and can change the world," Gyanda said.
In the end, people lost their lives for their stupidity, he said.
After he had found the trio guilty of the double murders, Pastor Danny Israel was called to give mitigating evidence for Hardus, whom he had known for three-and-a-half years in Westville prison.
The pastor, who helped rehabilitate and educate drug addicts, prostitutes and "people who others don't want", said he had been seeing Hardus on a religious basis.
"I cannot imagine anyone with more remorse for what he has done," Israel said.
At one stage Hardus was weeping constantly and wondering if there was anything he could do to turn things around and bring his parents back.
Hardus used be seriously introverted, and although he was now not an extrovert, he was well on his way.
Mentally, he was apprehensive and nervous, and the pastor believed he was expecting some sort of mercy from the court.
The pastor said he was prepared to open his own home to rehabilitate and enable Hardus to continue his IT studies, which Hardus was prepared to teach to underprivileged children.
Hardus would be unable to continue his studies in prison, as he would have no access to computers.
His sister is calling her father's brother, Reverend Willem Lotter, a Dutch Reform Church minister, to give mitigating evidence for her on Monday.