Farmer on trial for farm worker's murder - three years after body found

2018-05-07 21:24
Martin Visser is accused of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and assault. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Martin Visser is accused of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and assault. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Three years after the decomposing body of a Lutzville farm worker was found buried in a shallow grave, a local farmer is standing trial for allegedly using a garden spade to beat the man to death.

Martin Visser, who runs the Dassieshoek farm, was arrested a year-and-a-half after the murder of Adam Pieterse, 32, who previously laid an assault charge against him.

On Monday, Visser pleaded not guilty in the Western Cape High Court sitting in Vredendal to charges of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, and four charges of common assault of three other people.

Visser, 43, constantly fiddled with the buttons of his checked shirt as the pathologist, who had conducted the autopsy on the small, slightly-built farm worker, testified as the State's first witness.

Dr Esme Erasmus conducted the post mortem after Pieterse's remains were unearthed on March 18, 2015.

Pieterse's sand-covered body was clothed in a T-shirt, blue torn shorts and tights, she confirmed to Judge Nathan Erasmus.

According to her report, the body was in an advanced stage of decomposition.

He had cuts on his scalp and his brain was too decomposed to be assessed.

He had a cut on his left upper arm, resembling a defensive wound, and his genitals and perineum - the area between the anus and the scrotum - had been mutilated after his death.

Martin Visser getting into a police van at the inspection in loco. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Erasmus could not say if it had been caused in the attack or by animals after he had been killed.

He had also suffered fractures to the joints in his pubic area.

She was unable to confirm the cause of death due to the state of the corpse, or whether there was a possibility that he had been alive when he was buried.

The injuries could have been caused by a spade, Erasmus testified. But defence attorney Asghar Mia pointed out that this was speculation.

Pieterse worked on an adjacent farm on the perimeter of Dassieshoek and was a customer at a shop which Visser ran from the garage of his farmhouse.

According to the State, Visser sold groceries and wine to the workers on credit and he was "often provoked" by people who failed to pay their debt, came at inconvenient times or arrived at this small business under the influence of alcohol.

Martin Visser during the in loco inspection. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Pieterse laid a charge against Visser after allegedly being beaten on January 25, 2015 after buying liquor from the farmer and requesting meat on credit.

Visser had ostensibly told him to return later for his purchase, but when he did, he was allegedly assaulted for arriving at the shop again.

Pieterse had escaped by hiding in the vineyard, the State asserts, and the next day filed a charge with the local police.

A second assault allegedly took place a week later, when Pieterse went to visit a friend and crossed paths with Visser on his property. An argument ensued over the charge that the farmworker had laid against Visser, the State said.

That same month, Pieterse had been cooking with two of his friends at his home when Visser allegedly arrived and started to beat Pieterse with a spade.

Martin Visser in Adam Pieterse’s now deserted house. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

This, the State believed, resulted in Pieterse's death.

Visser is accused of asking Pieterse's two visitors to help him get rid of the body.

A friend who was worried that she no longer saw Pieterse, went to his home and saw "suspicious tracts and blood" behind his house.

She reported him missing, and his body was found in a shallow grave behind the vineyards of Visser's father's nearby farm, De Hoek.

During an in loco inspection on the first day of the trial, two farm workers pointed out where Pieterse's remains were eventually found.

Hendrina Jonkers told Erasmus that two days before Pieterse's body was dug up, she had seen Visser riding his quad bike on the dirt road running alongside the vineyard.

She testified that she had seen Visser park and walk into the bush, while standing about 500m away in the front garden of a farm worker's house.

A short while later, Jonkers said Visser returned to his bike and drove away.

"The next day I saw him again, driving the same route. He again walked to the veld."

The following morning, she told her sister-in-law what she had seen and they had gone to investigate.

Hendrina Jonkers shows where she stood when she allegedly saw Visser at the spot where farm worker Adam Pieterse was eventually found in a shallow grave. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

"We didn't touch anything. We just looked and saw the flies flying around the ground. We ran back and contacted the police to go and investigate themselves."

Pieterse's body was exhumed from a shallow grave, which prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver said was just under knee-length in depth.

Visser, who had been denied bail during proceedings in the magistrate's court, earlier greeted farm workers and played with the dogs while waiting for the inspection to begin.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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