Guest house murder: Childhood trauma, personality disorder no excuse for 'savagery' - judge

2019-06-21 19:46
Nicole Geldenhuys during a previous court appearance. (File, Edrea du Toit, Netwerk24)

Nicole Geldenhuys during a previous court appearance. (File, Edrea du Toit, Netwerk24)

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A possible personality disorder, and difficult childhoods did not excuse the "savagery" of the murder of Paradyskloof guest house owner Marie Verwey, the Western Cape High Court said on Friday. 

"Crime statistics indicate that South Africa is an extremely violent country," said Judge Mushtak Parker in sentencing the four people who had murdered 81-year-old Verwey.

"Brutality and senseless frenzied killing of a person, let alone someone like the deceased, must be dealt with appropriately harshly as society cannot, and will not, be expected to accept such behaviour without the perpetrators being met with the full force and effect of the law."

Verwey was stabbed 68 times in a murder and robbery planned by her trusted carer Nicole Geldenhuys, who had roped in her lover Romeo Hendricks, Enrico Malherbe and Andre Coetzee.

Judge Parker noted that a psychologist's report found that Geldenhuys had had a difficult childhood, like her accomplices, and she also suffered from abuse and an absent father.

This left her with low self-esteem and a need to be wanted and accepted.

'Cruel, brutal, devastating'

She had complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and an underlying borderline personality disorder that made her incapable of expressing emotions or remorse.

However, she was also manipulative and greedy and had tried to manipulate the court, Judge Parker noted. 

"She, in fact, was the catalyst that set this whole cruel, brutal and devastating event in motion," said Judge Parker.

Not once did she try and help the woman she claimed to lovingly refer to as "Ma".

Instead, she was "acting like a madam" giving instructions during the murder and robbery. 

She had told the court the others had not actually planned to rob or murder, but that she had set it up, gaining access to the heavily fortified house in Stellenbosch on the pretext of dropping off fruit so that Verwey would open the security gate. 

"It is further an undisputed fact that she thereafter in a most strikingly jolly/jovial mood went about selling the loot/jewellery, accompanied by her fellow accused...", said Judge Parker. 

"She was a trained caregiver whose primary calling and sole function should have been to provide care and make the lives of those she cares for comfortable."

'Subjected to the tyranny of criminals'

Judge Parker said people take great measures to protect themselves at home, and President Cyril Ramaphosa had lamented the high level of crime in his State of the Nation Address on Thursday. 

"It is unacceptable that the people of our land are now subjected to the tyranny of criminals like yourselves, where victims are treated inhumanely and stripped of any and all dignity as human beings.

"Courts are not and will not be prepared to tolerate this state of affairs," said Judge Parker, who likened the killers to a "pack of hyenas". 

He added that the elderly in society had knowledge and experience that could help future generations, and Verwey's relatives and the rest of society were now deprived of this. 

In addition, her home was now a "ghost house" and the business has closed.

For aggravated robbery, Geldenhuys was sentenced to 15 years, while her three accomplices received 12 years. 

For murder, Geldenhuys got life, Hendricks 28 years, while Malherbe and Coetzee each received 23 years.

The sentences will run concurrently, with the longest sentence of each person to be served.  

Verwey's son Francois left court immediately after sentencing.

Read more on:    marie verwey  |  paradyskloof  |  stellenbosch  |  crime  |  murder
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