The week that was in a stripper's murder trial

2015-04-18 10:59
(File: News24)

(File: News24)

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Johannesburg - This week saw the beginning of a trial that could have originated from a film script, involving drugs, sex, money, and murder.

Maruschka Robinson, a former stripper, and JP Malan, are accused of killing Dustan Blom in September 2013, a man who inherited a vast some of money following the death of his wife while giving birth to their twin children in March of that year.

Robinson was arrested on September 24 2013, and Malan on September 26 2013.

Blom by September 2013, according to court documents, was spending thousands of rands on strip clubs, escorts, and bars. He went missing on September 18, with his body later found in the boot of his Nissan on Sunday, September 22, at Montecasino in Johannesburg, after guards noticed a foul smell coming from it.

On Monday, the expected start of the trial at the South Gauteng High Court sitting at the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court - a proposed plea agreement by Robinson - was rejected due to a factual disagreement, with her lawyer withdrawing, and Jesse Penton from Legal Aid set to take over, having represented her before in the matter.

The matter was postponed to Wednesday by Judge Delize Smith for trial, with both Robinson and Malan remaining in custody.

On Wednesday, Malan told the court in a statement read by his lawyer JP Marais that Blom died as a result of a drug overdose.

Malan said he helped Robinson move Blom's corpse to his car because he believed at that stage he had provided her the drugs that killed him.

In Robinson's submission to the court, she alleged that Blom had died as a result of Malan strangling him in an effort to perform a "sleeper hold" similar to those performed by professional wrestlers so they could use his bank card to draw money.

Robinson said that she lived in Blom's house and had a "close relationship" with him, while also having a close relationship with Malan, who used to visit her at Blom's house. 

Blom from time to time gave Robinson access to his bank card and pin number, giving her permission to draw money from his account. 

"At times, myself and accused number two [Malan] used to steal money from the deceased [Blom]," Robinson said in her statement.

"We would steal his bank card and cellphone and withdraw monies from his account. An SMS would be sent to his phone shortly after money had been drawn from his account and we would then delete the SMS and, thereafter, return the card and the phone. Usually we would spike the deceased’s [Blom's] drink with GHB [Gamma Hydroxybutyrate or 'date rape' drug] before we did this."

‘Shooting up drugs’ and a wrestler's sleeper-hold

 According to Robinson's court submission, during the early hours of September 18 Robinson and Malan were in Blom's house "shooting up drugs". Blom arrived home, and Robinson went to look downstairs for him where she saw Blom sleeping on the couch.

Malan suggested to her they steal money from Blom, with Robinson against this as Blom was already asleep, making it not possible to spike his drink. Malan then suggested he would use a sleeper hold, akin to those seen in professional wrestling, to put him to sleep so he could take his bank card and draw money.

 Malan went downstairs and Robinson said she heard sounds close to that of furniture being moved. Malan then came back upstairs with the card and said he would go to draw money.

When Malan returned, he was with a man called Terence. By this stage, Robinson had already looked downstairs and saw Blom lying on the floor. Malan then told her to go downstairs, with Robinson believing Blom was still alive.

Downstairs, she saw Blom with a bloody nose, and she checked to see if Blom was breathing. After going back upstairs and being called back down by Terrence, Malan told her that Blom was dead.

Terrance left shortly afterwards, with Robinson wanting to call the police but Malan told her if she did, Robinson would be a suspect as she lived with Blom and would be in "big trouble".

"Accused two [Malan] then suggested that we dispose of the body by putting it in the deceased’s vehicle, which he would then dump somewhere. I agreed to this," she said in her submission to the court.

They then put Blom's body in the car and drove off. She and Malan then went to Montecasino, where they drew money off Blom's card, with Robinson stating that she and Malan used the money for drugs, and for purchases made at a Dion Wired at Cedar Square.

Malan later dropped her off at the Randburg Inn to book in, later returning having left the car at Montecasino

Both Robinson and Malan pleaded not guilty to killing Blom and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Robinson did plead guilty to five counts of fraud from using Blom's bankcard to draw money, but plead not guilty to attempting to defeat the ends of justice for leaving Blom's body in his car at Monte Casino.

Malan pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud, attempting to defeat the ends of justice and five counts of being in possession of fake ID documents.  

A broken man, cameras and the "party pack"

The first witness was also called on Wednesday, being Ryan Pickford, a friend of Blom's since 2001 when they met at work.

He told the court that the death of Blom's wife in March 2013 while giving birth to twins had left Blom in a broken state. The twins were in the care of his late wife's family.

Asked by prosecutor Zaais Van Zyl what Blom's daily routine was, Pickford said Blom, after inheriting "a lot of money" following his wife's death, spent a lot of time drinking and partying.

"He [Blom] tried to carry on working, but that dwindled very quickly given the money that he inherited I presume," Pickford told the court.

"For what I understood, Dustin would wake up and spend most of his afternoons at the Dros in Olivedale or he would socialise with new friends. He being broken from what happened to his wife, he quickly started dabbling and spending time with escort women and in [strip] clubs.

"I know he dated a handful of women. Basically, I don't think it was very easy for him and given his situation he spent most of time at a pub drinking a lot."

On Thursday, Montecasino assistant surveillance manager Clinton Vigne told the court that their security system recorded footage of Robinson and Malan being present at the entertainment complex just after midnight on September 19, the day Blom's car was left in the parking lot with his body inside.

The footage showed Malan and Robinson being affectionate to one another, and drawing a total of R26 500 from Blom's account using his bank card.

He also showed the court footage of Blom's car being driven into the casino's parking lot at 13:55 that day, though the driver of Blom's car could not be identified.

A former stripper, a colleague of Robinson's who had been dating Blom since September, was then called to give testimony, though before doing so requested and got a court order granted by Smith that her name not be published due to personal reasons.

She told the court that on September 17, the day before Blom disappeared, she was invited into Robinson's room where Robinson and Malan showed her a pack containing various drugs, including meth and kat. Robinson and Malan then themselves took drugs.

"I then asked accused number one if they had reason to celebrate and she said 'We are going to have reason to celebrate'."

Asked by Van Zyl whether Robinson elaborated on her reasons, the former stripper said she did not. September 17 was the last time the former stripper saw Blom alive.

The former stripper had been staying with Blom almost every night since September 8, when she said her and Blom "made love for the first time", having met on September 3.

A testimony questioned

On Friday and the back end of Thursday, the testimony of the former stripper came under the microscope. Both Malan and Robinson's disputed the former stripper's description of the party pack and events surrounding it, among other parts of her testimony.  

Robinson's attorney Penton asked the former stripper: "Do you know why accused number one would invite you into her room at that stage?"

The former stripper said she and Robinson had worked together closely for three years at the Lollipop Lounge but she began disassociating herself with Robinson, given the people she was hanging out with and the activities Robinson was involved with.

Penton said to the former stripper she had told the court in her testimony on Thursday the first time Blom had booked her out on September 5, while working at The Penthouse, she told Blom in his car that she did not want to go to his house as she did not like Robinson.

"That is correct," she said.

"But a few days later accused number one [Robinson] in a manner which you didn't describe as unfriendly invites you into her room and you actually take, up on this invitation," Penton said.

The former stripper replied: "She [Robinson] at this stage was not aware that I didn't like her. I was being polite and she did live in my boyfriend's [Blom's] home. She still believed I was still big bosom buddies with her."

Penton asked her what reason Robinson and Malan would have for showing her the rucksack. The former stripper replied there may have been no reason at all for being invited in.

Penton said: "Do you agree with me that it would very stupid to invite someone into their room that did not like her to witness their collection of drugs?"

"Accused number one [Robinson] didn't know that I didn't like her," the former stripper said.

"I would like to put it to you that such an incident didn't occur," Penton said.

"This incident did occur," she said.

Penton then told the court: "Let me put it to you this incident in your testimony is a recent fabrication."

Malan's counsel Marais, with Penton having done the same during his cross-examination, asked the former stripper why she testified that Robinson and Malan had shown her the "party pack" on September 17, but this was not included in the statement she gave to police.

"And you were fully aware of their possession of these dangerous drugs when you made your statement on September 23 2013?" Marais asked.

The former stripper said she told the police about the drugs when she gave her statement.

"I believed he [the officer taking the statement] knew what I was up for...while knowing the trauma I was going through...I believe he was being sincere to try not put everything so I would not be called into court," the former stripper said.

"I told [the officer] far more information than is in the statement."

Following this answer, Marais said to the stripper: "I put it to you, you are lying... No mention of any party packet, no mention of any dangerous drugs, no mention of him doing drugs."

The former stripper said the officer who took the statement "promised me numerous times, 'Don't worry you aren't going to be called up, you may go as you please'. I did not want to be in Joburg, I wanted to be with my family at this point."

Following Marais's cross-examination, the former stripper was excused.

The trial was then adjourned by Smith, and is set to resume on Monday.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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