Murder-accused husband asked insurer if they covered hijack deaths - State

2015-09-16 15:51

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Johannesburg - A man accused of his wife's murder took out life insurance worth R7.5m weeks before she was gunned down, also sending the insurer an email asking if they would pay out if she died in a hijacking.

This was according to evidence presented at George Barkhuizen's bail hearing in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on Wednesday. His wife Odette was gunned down earlier this year in what police initially believed was a hijacking.

He was denied bail.

Magistrate Lucas van der Schyff said he believed that the State had a strong case against Barkhuizen.

He said the evidence presented by the State suggested that Barkhuizen did not only have a motive, but had the ability to murder his wife.

The businessman was alleged to have taken out life insurance worth R7.5m on his wife about six weeks before she was gunned down in front of the offices where she worked. Her husband was her employer.

On the day the insurance was taken up, Barkhuizen was alleged to have also forged her will which now reflected that he was the sole beneficiary of her entire estate.

Barkhuizen's communication with one of the life insurers was the subject of scrutiny in the proceedings.

The State was in possession of emails that he had sent to the insurer in which he inquired whether they would pay out if she died during a hijacking.

Original will missing

In the emails, he also asked that the insurance company not contact his wife as she was in Cape Town where she had just buried his aunt - a claim the State has dismissed as a lie.

On the insurance forms, Barkhuzien had also given his own telephone number as that of the deceased.

The State had scrutinised Odette's signatures on the will and policy documents. A handwriting expert said the signatures were most likely forgeries.

Meanwhile, the original will was nowhere to be found and the only copy of it was found in Barkhuizen's belongings.

The court heard that the couple's marriage was on the rocks. One of their sons had informed the police that his parents were now sleeping in separate bedrooms and his mother had indicated that she wanted to file for a divorce.

Delivering his verdict on the bail application, Van der Schyff said: "It is very strange that she would want to leave everything to someone who she is divorcing."

In the new will, Barkhuizen had made no provisions for her sons, one of whom has cerebral parsley.

An affidavit form investigating officer Constable Naomi Weideman was also handed in as evidence. In it, Weideman indicated that she was certain the right man had been jailed and she was not pursuing any other suspects in the matter.

Witness saw Odette on the ground

It is understood that Odette Barkhuizen worked for her husband in his IT company. According to Weideman, another of Barkhuizen's employees witnessed Odette Barkhuizen being gunned down outside the office on June 11.

The man claimed to have heard the first gunshot and that he then ran to the balcony to see what had happened.

He saw Odette on the ground with the gunman still standing above her. The shooter, who was dressed in black, fired another shot at Odette's head before fleeing in her car. She died on the scene.

It was understood that the witness informed Barkhuizen's son of what had happened to his mother. The son called Barkhuizen who did not ask about his wife's condition but instead asked where the shooting had happened.

He said he was driving near Heidelberg at the time of the phone call. Barkhuizen arrived a short while later and hugged and consoled his son. At the time, however, he had not been informed that his wife had died, Weideman said in the statement.

Barkhuizen's cellphone records have also played a vital role in the case the State is attempting to build.

Weideman said the records showed that Barkhuizen was in the vicinity of his offices when his wife was killed.

Only her cellphone stolen

Her vehicle was found dumped several metres away and her bag, containing her bank cards and cash was still in the vehicle.

The only thing that had been taken was her cellphone.

Van der Schyff said it was very suspicious that Barkhuizen had not been truthful about his whereabouts. He said the hijacking itself did not make any sense.

"The robber managed to get away with what he wanted. Nobody stopped him. He had no reason to abandon the car a few metres away and leave all the valuables in the car.

"It does not make sense that he would only take the cellphone. We therefore have a robbery that does not make sense unless it was staged," said Van der Schyff.

Weideman gave her theory to the court through her affidavit. She said it was likely that Barkhuizen had parked his car several streets from his office.

He walked there, where he hid and waited for his wife. He then shot her and fled in her car, dumped it and walked back to his own car, then drove around before making his way to his office.

My father threatened me, says son

Barkhuizen had provided an alibi and claimed that he was in the area ealier because he had been ordering pastries at a local shop. The shop however, denied that there was such an order made by the murder accused.

It was understood that private investigator, Paul O'Sullivan, had assisted police in conducting their investigation.

Barkhuizen told the court that O'Sullivan had taken on the case for his own gain and was assisting his in-laws with whom he had a bad relationship.

He claimed that he was not a flight risk and had he wanted to flee the country, he could have done so weeks ago before he was arrested.

Barkhuizen also told the court that if granted bail, he would not intimidate any witnesses.

However, his son, who is a minor, said that his father had threatened him, telling him that in Ireland, boys who betrayed their fathers received a knife to the chest.

The employee who witnessed the murder also stated that he had some fears of what Barkhuizen may do to him as he had signed Odette Barkhuizen's will as a witness. He said, at the time, he did not see Odette's signature on the document and she had not been present during the signing.

The case against Barkhuizen was postponed to October 29.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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