‘Dan Knight, we are here to kill you’

2014-05-29 00:00

YESTERDAY Beth Bucher relived a nightmare.

Testifying in the Pietermaritzburg high court she recalled witnessing the murder of her life partner, Underberg timber farmer Dan Knight, on October 17 last year.

She described how the attack on her and Knight unfolded as a balaclava-clad gang armed with a huge hammer, guns and other weapons accosted them in their home.

“Dan Knight, we are here to kill you. We are here to kill both of you,” she recalled one of the attackers saying as they burst into their farmhouse.

Bucher was testifying in the trial of three men charged with bludgeoning Knight to death and robbing the couple at their Outlook farm.

Tsepiso Ramonyane (20), Bonginkosi Nyawose (33) and Happy Gcina (24) of Bulwer have pleaded not guilty and claim to have alibis.

Bucher told Judge Jerome Mnguni and an assessor of the fear that has gripped her since the attack and how she saw Knight — her partner of 18 years — being kicked and bludgeoned.

She said the fear has driven her out of her home and away from her livelihood.

The attack, which caused a widespread outcry, came on the eve of Knight’s 56th birthday.

Bucher said she and Knight had earlier enjoyed the view of the mountains, and were sitting down to eat dinner, when she heard a noise and a group of men in balaclavas came running through the unlocked scullery door.

“One of them came straight for me carrying a monkey wrench and a firearm … I saw three other black people jump onto Dan,” she said. “One of them shouted: ‘Dan Knight, we are here to kill you. We are here to kill both of you. You must give us your firearms and your money’.”

Knight spoke to them in Zulu, which she didn’t understand. He also offered them a cheque, but they said that was “useless”.

As her partner was being beaten by the gang, Bucher lay helpless and bound on a couch with a man lying on top of her, she recalled.

Later, while she was being carried upstairs, Bucher said she saw Knight lying motionless on the floor of their living area.

He was “bent over double”, and his feet and wrists were bound together by cable ties.

“His brain matter had spilled out onto our carpet,” she said.

She said the men dropped her on the floor of their bedroom, which had already been ransacked. They had taken the Beretta firearm she kept at the back of her dressing table.

“They demanded the keys to our safe but I didn’t know where they were,” she said.

Bucher said Knight didn’t keep money on the farm.

Bucher was carried to the bathroom by three men who shut the door.

“I was afraid they were going to rape me and I shouted out for Daniel.”

She was hit on her head with a pistol and told to shut up.

Bucher told the court later one man shoved his fist, and then a firearm into her mouth, and demanded money.

They tied her to the washbasin pedestal, wrapped her head in bandages, and tied a surgical glove tightly over her nose and mouth. They left her in the bathroom in the dark.

She eventually managed to rip the glove with her teeth so that she could breathe.

She could hear the men as they continued to ransack the house and load goods into a Landcruiser and bakkie, and eventually they drove away.

After freeing herself, Bucher climbed out of the window and ran to where Knight lay in a pool of blood.

One of their three dogs — who were earlier kicked and chased away — lay protectively across his body.

Bucher said she could not find a pulse or feel his breath. She drove to a neighbour for help.

She testified that while her physical injuries have healed, her mental state had not.

She has trouble sleeping and cannot get through the day without antidepressants, and has become withdrawn.

She has also been driven out of her home to live with her children and has given up her business selling firewood.

Bucher’s voice trembled as she spoke about her daughter’s planned wedding next month.

“I have to be happy that day … She is so worried that I am going to have a breakdown on her special day,” she said.

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