Free State farmer gets 3 life terms for murdering young men

2019-05-17 07:30
Johan Sonnenberg and his wife, Elana, speaking to his attorney, Hannes Rust, in court in Hertzogville.

Johan Sonnenberg and his wife, Elana, speaking to his attorney, Hannes Rust, in court in Hertzogville. (Mlungisi Louw )

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A Free State farmer will spend the rest of his life behind bars for the murder of three young men. 

Johan Pieter Sonnenberg, 62, was sentenced by the High Court in Virginia for the murders of brothers Michael Grant, 20, and Jerome Desmond Grant, 28, and their friend Riaan Ruiters, 23, police spokesperson Brigadier Motantsi Sam Makhele said in a statement.

The deceased were reported missing at Christiana SAPS in the North West back in February 2014.

Cristiana Police received information that they were last seen in February with Sonnenberg crossing over the bridge to his game farm Diamant on the border between Christiana in North West and Hertzogville in the Free State.

A search warrant was obtained by the Christiana detectives to search at his game farm, Makhele said. 

The Strikfontein K9 unit, joined by the Christiana diving unit and detectives, combed through the game farm with the help of members from Hertzogville and Christiana visible policing, as well as Hertzogville detectives.

"During the search, a foul smell was detected and National Forensic Services were contacted from Pretoria to help in exhumation of the bodies in the shallow graves. Sonnenberg was arrested for the murder of the three men. During the search at his house, police also found different types of ammunition," Makhele said.

"The Free State provincial task team led by Detective Lieutenant Colonel Tankiso Sefuthi was entrusted with investigations and they made sure that justice is served. The court sentenced Sonnenberg to three life imprisonment terms."

Free State Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Moeketsi Sempe lauded the task team allocated in investigating the case and had hope that the families of the three deceased will find closure. 

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