Convicted murderer a ‘low risk’ in terms of danger to society, social worker tells court

2019-08-07 16:58
Reghard Groenewald is handcuffed after being convicted of murder. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Reghard Groenewald is handcuffed after being convicted of murder. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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A social worker who found that convicted murderer Reghard Groenewald was considered a low risk in terms of dangerousness and being a threat to society said she had assessed him under the impression that he would be pleading guilty to Durbanville mom Hilary van Rooyen’s murder.

Arina Smit, at the time employed by Nicro, testified in the Western Cape High Court that she had compiled her report in February, before the start of his trial.

"I was under the impression that he was being interviewed as a guilty person," she answered under cross-examination by advocate Evadne Kortje.

According to her understanding, he had been planning to enter a plea agreement with the State.

Kortje pointed out that, less than a week after his interview with the social worker, Groenewald had pleaded not guilty.

Smit testified that she had later been informed that Groenewald "had had difficulty pleading guilty in front of his parents".

In May, Groenewald was convicted of murdering Hilary, his friend's mother, in her Durbanville home two years ago. He claimed she had come on to him and that an argument had ensued when he rejected her.

'He doesn’t understand how this happened'

He alleged that he had hit her with a vase when she had held onto him and threatened to tell everyone he had tried to rape and assault her.

Kortje had dug into Smit’s report, pointing out that the first offender inventory used was for first-time, non-violent offenders convicted of lesser offences.

A number of errors, such as references to sex offending behaviour and an incomplete sentence, led to Kortje questioning whether her report was a "cut and paste job", which Smith denied.

Groenewald had presented signs of anxiety, fear and self-loathing, she testified, and "doesn’t understand how this happened if he thinks about it in retrospect".

She also told the court that she had found Groenewald’s cognitive problem solving skills equivalent to those of a child between the ages of 7 and 11, affecting how he would react to, for example, feeling threatened.

Kortje asked if that made him egocentric, but Smit said she interpreted it as being "more impulsive".

He had also shown true remorse for what he had done, Smit said.

'Would your report have been different?'

When asked how he had relayed this, Smit testified that his attending Van Rooyen’s funeral and wanting to speak to the family after his arrest, but not being allowed to contact them, was an example of this.

Kortje countered that this could also be interpreted as negative behaviour.

Judge Derek Wille asked whether the remorse was based on the fact that he was going to plead guilty, and Smit responded that it was.

"Had you known he wasn’t going to plead guilty, would your report have been different?" he asked Smit.

She responded that it would have been.

Smit also found that Groenewald had had suicidal thoughts, but argued that it was an indication that he was a possible risk to himself, but not others.

She said she would recommend direct imprisonment, but not for an extended period, as he was young and could be rehabilitated.

The case was postponed to Thursday for closing arguments.

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