Witnesses tell of law firm shooting
Gerhard Pretorius and Hilda Fourie, Beeld
Pretoria - An attorney and secretary who witnessed a shooting spree at a Centurion law firm on Wednesday that left four people dead have described what went through their minds.
A property deal gone wrong was apparently the reason why Martin van Deventer, 65, shot dead Johan Griessel, 50, Pieter Erasmus, 53, and Wimpie van Heerden, 56, in the conference room of the law firm. All three of the victims were directors of the Mayborn development company.
"Are you sure? Because these are your last words,” Van Deventer said before shooting the three men in the head, one by one.
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Annabelle Middleton said Van Deventer then turned his pistol on himself and shot himself in the head.
All except for Van Heerden were pronounced dead in the conference room by paramedics.
Van Heerden was taken to the Pretoria East hospital, but died shortly after his arrival, said Netcare 911 spokesperson, Jeff Wicks.
Griessel, Erasmus, Van Heerden and Van Deventer had met on Wednesday morning at the legal firm Du Randt and Richards in Zwartkop, to discuss funding for a property.
Griessel, Erasmus and Van Heerden bought Van Deventer’s farm for a property development, confirmed two independent sources.
Half of the purchasing price was paid over to Van Deventer at the time of the sale, while the rest would have been paid at a later stage.
The three buyers allegedly told Van Deventer on Wednesday morning that they could not pay him the rest of his money at this stage.
“Are you sure?” he asked and took out a weapon.
Louis du Randt of the legal firm Du Randt and Richards said he was sitting with the four men in the conference room.
“I don’t know what went wrong. The meeting went well.
“The next moment he was shooting my clients.”
Van Deventer apparently went to stand over his three victims and shot each of them again.
Du Randt said Van Deventer had told him to sit down and told his own lawyer, a man known only as Beukman, to stand in the corner.
“Then he looked us in the eye, turned the weapon on himself and pulled the trigger. I couldn’t believe it.
“I can’t describe to anyone the fear that I felt,” said Du Randt.
Du Randt’s secretary, Francisca Janse van Rensburg, said when she heard the shots, she went to see what was going on.
“When I walked in, I saw the blood running out of one of the men’s neck.”
Du Randt told her to run away.
“When I went, more shots were fired. I went to hide under a desk.
“I kept thinking the whole time that if this man shot me today, what would become of my children?”
Van Heerden’s daughter, Michelle, heard of the shooting and arrived on the scene.
“I called my father but he isn’t answering his phone. Do you know what’s going on?” she asked reporters on the scene.
They had to tell her that her father had died.
“My father, really, my father?” was all the crying woman could say.
Griessel’s brother, Ettienne, was also at the scene but didn’t want to talk to the media.
Tewie Roux, a colleague of the three victims said he was not aware of the meeting they’d had with the lawyers.
People with integrity
“They were three fantastic people, people with integrity. Honest,” he said.
Griessel and Erasmus were also directors of the development company Mine Citi (Pty) Ltd.
Van Heerden was the company’s legal advisor.
“I saw him on Sunday and gave him a hug. I didn’t think then he would be dead by Wednesday,” said Connie Claassens, Johan Griessel's aunt.
“Johan was lovely and such a nice boy. He wouldn’t harm anyone.”
Griessel was not married.
His shocked parents, Mike, 78, and Ria Griessel, 76, drove from Vaal Park in Sasolburg to Pretoria after hearing of the shooting.
Pieter Erasmus was a rock of man, said his sister, Dalda Piketh, on Wednesday.
“It is so unreal that he died in this way. It is very difficult for us.”
Piketh said her brother was an intelligent and kind person who always led the way.
She said he had been reborn about a year ago. “I know he is in a better place.”
Erasmus, who never married, left five brothers and his mother, Myra, 75.