Sizzlers accused face families

Cape Town - The distraught parents of slain massage-parlour owner, Aubrey Otgaar, struggled to hold back their tears on Monday as the massacre, which claimed nine lives last January, was described in the Cape High Court as "extraordinary, bizarre and weird".

Appearing before Judge Nathan Erasmus were Adam Woest, a former waiter, and taxi driver Trevor Theys.

In court with Otgaar's family were relatives of another victim, Gregory Berghaus. He was a client at Sizzler's, the massage parlour, on the night of the attack.

Both sets of relatives sat to the side in court, away from the public gallery, and stared at the two accused unflinchingly.

Addressing Judge Nathan Erasmus, State prosecutor Anthony Stephen said the fact that the incident claimed nine lives was "in itself a record".

Woest and Theys were sent to Valkenberg Hospital for 30 days' observation at Stephen's request.

Stephen told the court the defence team, Mornay Calitz for Woest and Christopher Ryke for Theys, agreed the two men should be sent for observation.

Postponed to March 2

Stephen said the massacre was so bizarre that it was necessary to establish whether the two men had a mental disorder.

It was also necessary to determine whether they were capable of understanding the proceedings.

The case was postponed to March 2 when Woest and Theys are expected to plead to nine charges of murder, one of attempted murder, one of robbery with aggravating circumstances, one of theft, and two counts of unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Stephen told the court the killing boiled down to a robbery, which went "horribly out of control".

In an unexpected development at Monday's hearing, Ryke withdrew from the defence team, explaining that Theys had changed his story so often as to make it impossible for Ryke to defend him.

Erasmus warned both accused to co-operate with their psychiatric panels, and urged both psychiatric teams to make the assessments a priority so that they would be completed when the trial started.

Still extremely traumatised

He told Theys the Cape Bar Council would appoint him a new defence counsel free of charge.

Outside court, Otgaar's mother, Joan Versveld, his stepfather, Peter Versveld, and his sister, Cheryl Cunningham, said they were still extremely traumatised by the killings.

Asked what it was like to stare the accused in the eye, Peter Versveld said: "It is they who must look me in the eye. It is on their consciences."

According to him, Otgaar was like his own son.

His wife, who struggled to hold back her tears, was too emotional to speak to the press.

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