Farming family slain

2014-03-03 00:00

A DAY of celebration turned into a day of mourning when three members of the Schutte family were murdered in their Richmond home yesterday.

Eckhardt Schutte had been due to enjoy a family braai, in celebration of his 77th birthday.

Instead, he, his 66-year-old wife, Elizabeth, and their 33-year-old son, Lutz — who had flown in the day before from Germany for the party — were killed by intruders who ransacked the house and stole a vehicle.

The devastating scene was discovered at midday yesterday by Stefan, another of the Schutte’s sons, who had driven to the smallholding — which is just off the R56, on a dirt road opposite Natal Timber Products — to celebrate his father’s special day.

Paramedics who attended the scene initially only attended to Elizabeth and Lutz. A spokesperson said: “There was a lot of blood on scene; however, it is not clear how they died. The police were also on scene to investigate.”

The local farming community was then reportedly alerted to the fact that Eckhardt was missing, along with a farm vehicle, a Mahindra Xylo.

A few hours later, however, the search was called off when Lieutenant Jack Haskins, from the K9 Search and Rescue team, and other officers found a body in a workshop on the property.

The vehicle was still missing at the time The Witness went to press.

Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that the house had been ransacked, adding: “We can’t tell exactly what’s missing at this stage. Crime scene investigators still have to comb the scene.

“It’s going to be a long process as there are many rooms in the house.

“At this stage there may be firearms missing, but detectives are reluctant to release details so soon.

“It’s important that a thorough examination of the crime is done so that when we arrest the men we can link them in a watertight case.”

When The Witness visited the scene yesterday afternoon, yellow police tape cordoned off the house and both plainclothes detectives and uniformed police officers could be seen inside and outside the property.

Friends and neighbours were also present. Among them was Ken Collett, who lives in the Richmond Valley, and believes he might have been one of the last people to have seen Eckhardt alive.

He had stopped by to deliver meat for the braai, which was to have taken place yesterday.

“I saw them at about 4.30 pm yesterday,” Collett said, adding that he was devastated by the news of the family’s murder.

“I bought his business [Springfield Meats] from him about 10 years ago and we have been friends ever since.

“I don’t think this was about money … they didn’t have money in the house,” he added.

“They don’t do cash sales. They owned a small bush sawmill [which is directly opposite the house] and sell shavings to chicken people and pallets and vegetable packing material … everything is paid for on account or by EFT.”

Long-time neighbours Lyn and Chris Adams were also struggling to come to terms with the violence that had shattered their peaceful farming community. “This is so hard,” Lyn said. “Elizabeth was so kind. She was the one who fetched me from the hospital when I had back surgery recently.”

The couple said they understood Elizabeth had driven to the airport on Saturday afternoon to fetch Lutz, who had flown in from Germany for his dad’s birthday.

Following the tragedy, the close-knit community rallied round Stefan.

The Witness was told he was being comforted by friends, while waiting for his younger brother, Matthias, who lives in London, to come home.

Matthias is being accompanied by the Adams’s son, Justin, who is a close friend.

Koos Marais, who manages the security desk for the Kwazulu-Natal Agricultural Union (KwaNalu), said the organisation was outraged by the death of another KZN farmer. “We ask what steps are being taken to prevent farm attacks,” he added.

“We believe the government should show their intent and take the necessary steps. And we call on the police to step up visible policing, especially in rural areas where there have been a number of incidents, like Eston, Camperdown and Cato Ridge.

“We hope the police will prioritise this murder and give it their full attention.”

Marais urged farmers and landowners to step up their security, to report suspicious looking persons to police, and said neighbours needed to look out for one another.

• Anyone with information about the murders is asked to phone Richmond Police at 033 212 9455/6 or Crimestoppers at 086 001 0111.

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