Witnesses tell of law firm shooting

2012-03-29 10:39

Pretoria - An attorney and secretary who witnessed a shooting spree at a Centurion law firm on Wednesday that left four people dead have described what went through their minds.

A property deal gone wrong was apparently the reason why Martin van Deventer, 65, shot dead Johan Griessel, 50, Pieter Erasmus, 53, and Wimpie van Heerden, 56, in the conference room of the law firm. All three of the victims were directors of the Mayborn development company.

"Are you sure? Because these are your last words,” Van Deventer said before shooting the three men in the head, one by one.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Annabelle Middleton said Van Deventer then turned his pistol on himself and shot himself in the head.

All except for Van Heerden were pronounced dead in the conference room by paramedics.

Van Heerden was taken to the Pretoria East hospital, but died shortly after his arrival, said Netcare 911 spokesperson, Jeff Wicks.

Property deal

Griessel, Erasmus, Van Heerden and Van Deventer had met on Wednesday morning at the legal firm Du Randt and Richards in Zwartkop, to discuss funding for a property.

Griessel, Erasmus and Van Heerden bought Van Deventer’s farm for a property development, confirmed two independent sources.

Half of the purchasing price was paid over to Van Deventer at the time of the sale, while the rest would have been paid at a later stage.

The three buyers allegedly told Van Deventer on Wednesday morning that they could not pay him the rest of his money at this stage.

“Are you sure?” he asked and took out a weapon.

Louis du Randt of the legal firm Du Randt and Richards said he was sitting with the four men in the conference room.

“I don’t know what went wrong. The meeting went well.

“The next moment he was shooting my clients.”

Van Deventer apparently went to stand over his three victims and shot each of them again.

Du Randt said Van Deventer had told him to sit down and told his own lawyer, a man known only as Beukman, to stand in the corner.


“Then he looked us in the eye, turned the weapon on himself and pulled the trigger. I couldn’t believe it.

“I can’t describe to anyone the fear that I felt,” said Du Randt.

Du Randt’s secretary, Francisca Janse van Rensburg, said when she heard the shots, she went to see what was going on.

“When I walked in, I saw the blood running out of one of the men’s neck.”

Du Randt told her to run away.

“When I went, more shots were fired. I went to hide under a desk.

“I kept thinking the whole time that if this man shot me today, what would become of my children?”

Van Heerden’s daughter, Michelle, heard of the shooting and arrived on the scene.

“I called my father but he isn’t answering his phone. Do you know what’s going on?” she asked reporters on the scene.

They had to tell her that her father had died.

“My father, really, my father?” was all the crying woman could say.

Griessel’s brother, Ettienne, was also at the scene but didn’t want to talk to the media.

Tewie Roux, a colleague of the three victims said he was not aware of the meeting they’d had with the lawyers.

People with integrity

“They were three fantastic people, people with integrity. Honest,” he said.

Griessel and Erasmus were also directors of the development company Mine Citi (Pty) Ltd.

Van Heerden was the company’s legal advisor.

“I saw him on Sunday and gave him a hug. I didn’t think then he would be dead by Wednesday,” said Connie Claassens, Johan Griessel's aunt.

“Johan was lovely and such a nice boy. He wouldn’t harm anyone.”

Griessel was not married.

His shocked parents, Mike, 78, and Ria Griessel, 76, drove from Vaal Park in Sasolburg to Pretoria after hearing of the shooting.

Pieter Erasmus was a rock of man, said his sister, Dalda Piketh, on Wednesday.

“It is so unreal that he died in this way. It is very difficult for us.”

Piketh said her brother was an intelligent and kind person who always led the way.

She said he had been reborn about a year ago. “I know he is in a better place.”

Erasmus, who never married, left five brothers and his mother, Myra, 75.

  • Forceptor - 2012-03-29 10:55

    Terrible and completely avoidable! Condolences to the families!!

      radlegend - 2012-03-30 09:23

      @Rooster: i think that's exactly what happened. Van Deventer probably really needed taht he saw no other option but kill himself...and take those people with him. I'm not condoning what he did, but i definitely understand what frustration can do to people.... It's just so sad...

  • Sika - 2012-03-29 10:55 of a brave man..not that I condone what he did...!

      Simon - 2012-03-29 11:27

      Sika. suicide is a cowardly and selfish act!

  • Mashudu - 2012-03-29 11:04


  • mfudzi.wamambo - 2012-03-29 11:05

    that guy could honestly not have shot them for nothing.remember this guy sold a farm for which these guys were dilly-dallying with his payment. they might have been arrogant in a certain way which only he could tell. what i believe is he would not just pull out a firearm and fire fatal shots for no apparent reason. obviously the fact that he took the law into his own hands is regrettable but i also beleive he might have discerned that they were taking him for a ride. i think people should learn to be more courteous when dealing with sensitive issues concerning others for it might be a matter of life or death if not properly handled.

      Atholl - 2012-03-29 16:23

      mfudzi exactly what I was thinking .. There are many many pensioners who are seen as easy targets in 'white/collar' crime/business. at 65 yrs, the last thing that you want is someone to press your 'button' ... you have to balance the conduct of Mr Van Deventer - his impulsive reaction to solve a 'problem' in an irrational manner - shooting at his perception of the 'cause' of the problem. .... with ... ... the reaction of other (many) pensioners in similar circumstances who are fleeced by others and who have no means (rational or irrational) to solve a 'problem' that they don't want to be part of. The mere fact that the meeting was held in the offices of the 'victims' law firm would have been intimidating enough to let Mr Van Deventer believe that he was being set up for battle in unfamiliar conditions.

      Selwyn - 2012-03-30 09:19

      @RENIER, are you illiterate, They did not say he would not be getting his money, read carefully, "The three buyers allegedly told Van Deventer on Wednesday morning that they could not pay him the rest of his money at this stage".

  • stalin.rudolf - 2012-03-29 11:09

    the dude was tired of being sent from pillar to post. they must just have given him his money. naaaaah lots of details are missing in this story. if you cannot pay me my money why call me to your laya's office?

      Linda - 2012-03-29 11:30

      At age 65, you would not want stress-this guy is retired and surely dependant on this income for living. Another lesson to be learnt,

      Lee - 2012-03-29 11:40

      I agree, I feel really sorry for all those involved but have to say that I think people are becoming so sick and tired of being taken for a ride by others and abiding by the law like seeing lawyers and the time it takes and the costs that incure for months and months is just more stressfull and then to be told you cannot get your money back is just the last straw. You would have thought that at the meeting there would have been some kind of agreement or payment plan drawn up by those that are owing the money to make the guy feel better than to be told the opposite. Times are hard and people (including Lawyers) need to be more sensitive these days, especially those that know they are wrong. Try to rectify the wrong rather than play games or delay, it's not fair to leave a persons life in a stressfull state after a gentlemans agreemen and then walk away as if no harm is done. I also agree that you should not take someones life no matter what but sadley when you snap there is no telling what one can do. My prayers are with the families and loved ones.

  • Burtfred - 2012-03-29 11:15

    Why did the three buy property that they could not pay for? They effectively stole from the seller. I understand Van Heerden's frustration, but I don't think that shooting the thieves was the solution.

      Koos - 2012-03-29 12:29

      There come a time in a man's life when you do what you have to do. It is difficult for people to comprehend what could make a person do something like that. First you get 'gatvol' when people and their lawyers give you the run around, cases are delayed, you see how your money is wasted, then you get 'moedeloos' as you can not believe. This is when you will wipe them out in the blink of an eye. It is not a nice place to find yourself at.

  • komorison - 2012-03-29 11:24

    U n b e l i v e a b l e!

  • Breinlekkasie - 2012-03-29 11:33

    It is just an assumption but I sounds like a case where the three property developers and their lawyer were manipulating the law in a legal yet unethical way. Pity manipulating the law is no much in a gun fight.

      Mike - 2012-03-29 11:41

      Not an assumption just a brainfart

      Warmonger - 2012-03-29 14:49

      Indeed BL! One can come to that conclusion... Oh and “They were three fantastic people, people with integrity. Honest”:- SOMEBODY didn't share that sentiment!! I'd like to add that the gentlemen probably saved some other(s) the same trauma of being 'run-in' by the 3-dearly departed. No-one just shoots a person (again and again) unless you are at your wits end... I hope he does not get judged too severely, he [possibly] did scociety a Huge favour...

  • paulmandlankosi - 2012-03-29 11:34

    This is very sad, may their soul rest in peace

  • Marina - 2012-03-29 11:43

    Desperate times require desperate measures. There can be no other explanation for van Deventer's actions. I feel sorry for all of them. So unnecessary.

  • Bandile - 2012-03-29 11:51

    Their non adherence to their side of the agreement probably put him in such a desperate situation that he saw no way out of it and took them with him as revenge. They were probably messing with the only retirement money he had. If so, their lawyer is very lucky to be alive. RIP.

  • claudine.bate - 2012-03-29 11:53

    Typical lawyer talk: "I don’t know what went wrong. The meeting went well." But Van Deventer was being screwed out of half his payment. Oi!!

      Barker - 2012-03-29 12:44

      It went well for the lawyer. He came out alive.

  • khanyisa.sulo - 2012-03-29 11:55

    This could have been avoided if they had given this guy his money as per agreement, not call him into some lawyers offices and bombard him with some legal jargon - so sad now everyone had to pay with their lives!

  • Jayson - 2012-03-29 11:58

    I can't imagine what went through these poor guys minds having to witness such a horrendous crime. Yes there may have been some wrong doings going on there, witch we don't know about yet. But in no way is it justifiable to settle a disagreement in such a manner. At the end of the day. These guys were husbands, fathers brothers etc. R.I.P.

  • paul.prinsloo3 - 2012-03-29 12:00

    Evil is abound. In this case one recognizes desperation brought about by the recession and other factors. Van Deventer obviously went with the expectation to finalize a transaction, fully expecting to be paid the remainder of the money owed by the company for the purchase of his farm, only to be frustrated. To be told that they're unable to comply with the agreement, they pulled the rug from underneath Van Deventer's feet. At the age of 65, there's not much to live for if you're left penniless.

  • As - 2012-03-29 12:07

    He surely know what he was going to do, because he had his weapon with him, he knew what was going to happen

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-03-29 12:25

    Hope this sends a loud message to other lawyers. Watch out don't ever not pay up to a desperate man. Who know's what drove Van Deventer to take such drastic action.....for all we know he might have a terminal illness, or maybe he was close to bankruptcy. Even so it wasn't the best way to settle things.

  • sandy.langenstrass - 2012-03-29 12:47

    In most comments today..people are saying why did he have a gun on him? Well if the farmer still lives on his farm, it's dangerous for him even going out of his farm gate to attend that meeting , he might have got held up next to his gate...I think farmer do need to carry their guns for protection most of the time...please don't forget how many farm murders there have been.

  • relebogile.matjila - 2012-03-29 13:00

    Never underestimate the value of money. They brought it upon themselves. Pay up or face the music.

  • Malette - 2012-03-29 13:00

    "People with integrity? Honest?" Is that why they were conning an old man out of his money / nest-egg / savings? Plus he had to pay legal fees just to try and get the money back that was OWED TO HIM. Make no mistake, I don't condone the murders, but don't paint them as saints when they obviously were NOT.

  • Tshe - 2012-03-29 13:00

    I wonder who did not stick to their initial agreement, bringing the gun along to the meeting, tells all the tale. Too bad!

  • Sheik - 2012-03-29 13:15

    There is no doubt that Martin van Deventer was being screwed over.

  • Dawn - 2012-03-29 13:29

    We can't judge the shooter,but it was not cool taking the others life's,the way the story goes,it looks like the shooter was expecting not to get his money..if he was a geniun heartless person..there would not have been any witnesses.

  • Leon - 2012-03-29 13:37

    R I P O, the secretary - your boss told you to "run away" not to "hide" under your desk and thinking of your kids?

  • theunis.roux - 2012-03-29 13:49

    TWV,That is what monay do in our days of life

      sandy.langenstrass - 2012-03-29 18:32's the sad story of without money and your life goe's one way....

  • SteVmphO - 2012-03-29 14:08

    rooot ofn all evil $$$$$$$! askies to the families involved. its tragic and sad

  • Francois - 2012-03-29 14:29

    The property development game is worse than the mafia, I'm an attorney and a couple of years ago I've had the unfortunate duty of having to inform a client that "Oom Koos" with the bible under the arm has just screwed them out of their life savings. "Oom Koos" even had the audacity to open and close meetings with prayer. Let this also be a warning for the Sharemaxes of the world, in other words those confidence tricksters who has no qualms about stealing money from pensioners.

      Warmonger - 2012-03-29 15:00

      I also learned that lesson "the hard way"... Religion and business DO NOT MIX! And the more people profess to have found 'religion', the further & faster you should run in the opposite direction! If you want to convince people of your religion, they should "see" it in the way you live, and NOT through what you have to say...

  • Malette - 2012-03-29 15:16

    I sincerely hope that the money owed to van Deventer is paid to his widow, out of the 2 scaly developers' estates.

  • Msika - 2012-03-29 15:28

    "Lack of money is the root of all evil"

  • mike.clery - 2012-03-29 17:32

    It's in the public interest for the FULL details of this deal to be published. If a 65 year old WAS about to be left with almost nothing (after settling bond etc. on the property plus legal fees), then what he did was understandable. It's in the public interest because it may just make that army on unscrupulous "businessmen" out there think twice about about cheating others.

  • Johnson - 2012-03-29 17:48

    Oom van Deventer was conned out of his land and all white South Africans commenting here seem to understand. Now you know how we feel after having being conned, muscled and murdered out of our land by the colonialist and the boer.

      sandy.langenstrass - 2012-03-29 18:38

      Johnson..will there ever be a report that never has this white/black story thrown up?...I've realized,the two will never agree on this I won't even waste my energy trying.

  • Fanie - 2012-03-29 18:29

    People always assume that negotiations are about a win-win outcome, but the real real world is full of all sorts and as such, never sit on a table assuming that no party is gonna argue on a "winner takes all" basis. When this situation arises, honesty and integrity could just make space for a "loose-loose" scenario....

  • Hugo - 2012-03-29 18:47

    RIP Mr Van Deventer

  • Phillipine - 2012-03-29 18:56

    I was wondering why we dont see comments like they are savages, TIA, criminals but then its white people killing each other. it must be understadable

      Phillipine - 2012-03-29 19:18

      All i am asking from whites is, are you going to kill 30 black people for each corpse as you have indicated on your last gathering. the guys died from crime is in it.

      Malette - 2012-04-02 15:10

      Phillipine, you must have skipped the "comprehension" part at school, because you are not understanding what you are reading. The reason alot of the "whities" seem to be taking the side of the shooter, is because he was conned by the other white guys, so they had it coming. That is why we aren't bemoaning the untimely passing of the 2 has nothing to do with race, everyone in SA is fed up with crime. It's only people like you who play the race card all the time FFS.

  • Justine - 2012-03-29 20:38

    Riddance of those three scum. Sad the shooter killed himself - we need more heros like him to clean up this country!

      Konrad - 2012-03-30 11:45

      @justine,all i can say to you,you are one misinformed woman and really dont understand what goes on today in bussiness deals. nobody even remotely said the 3 stole his money. it was a bussiness deal that went sour. it happens. that does not make you a scum bag. dont make remarks just for the sake of making one and trying to also just say something on the comment page so that it makes you feel good. (ps. maybe im dof,but how can you see the shooter as a hero and see shooters as a solution for our country's problems. were do you come from,the dark ages????)

      Malette - 2012-04-02 15:13

      @Konrad, I fear you are the misinformed one. They "bought" his land and developed on it. They paid half of the Purchase Price on registrastion, and had an agreement to pay the balance off in instalments. However, when the time came for those payments they said they don't have the money. Yet they already had his property and were using it and making money out of it. F*ck them man.

  • Colleen - 2012-03-29 21:56

    Our sincere condolences to the families. I pray we do not become like America.

  • Malusi - 2012-03-29 23:23

    After all of this, the sad part is that all people who died, there was no one from them who had right full owner of that land. That's why it was possible for them to fight over the land. Three guys realised that how they can pay all money for the land that doesn't real belongs to any of them, as it is highly possible that land was stolen many years ago. My heart felt condolence for the bereaved families

      Carla - 2012-03-30 11:25

      The gentleman that shot the lawyers was the rightful owner of the land.

  • Itumeleng - 2012-03-30 00:50

    Come on people. White or Black nobody has the right to take a life. They should have talked out their differences and a solution would have been made. Its really sad.

  • Useny - 2012-03-30 02:34

    Bt its syms lyk they ddnt gv de story excetly 2 de copz

  • radlegend - 2012-03-30 09:33

    This is just really sad and unfortunate... RIP to all who died

  • Kroonstad - 2012-03-30 10:46

    “I don’t know what went wrong. The meeting went well." Your clients were schtupping this guy, that's what went wrong, and you were probably callous towards it. Never underestimate the callousness of a lawyer and the desperation of someone being cheated out of money.

  • Malcolm - 2012-03-30 10:57

    Terribly sad,yet many unscrupulous property developers have swindled innocent investors/retired people out of life savings driving many to commit suicide whilst they(developers) get away in most cases with a slap on the wrist!!! This gent obviously had had enough & decided to sort the matter out himself . I am certainly not condoning what happened but he was obviouslypushed over the edge ! Condolences to all

  • Loo - 2012-03-30 13:40

    Should have paid the man ... all I can say

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