Seasoned cop disturbed after murdered farm worker's decomposing remains dug up

2018-05-09 17:29
Martin Visser in Adam Pieterse’s now desserted house. He is accused of killing the farm worker with a spade. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Martin Visser in Adam Pieterse’s now desserted house. He is accused of killing the farm worker with a spade. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Although he has worked as a detective for 15 years, the station commander of the Lutzville police station was disturbed by the sight of the decomposing remains of Lutzville farm worker Adam Pieterse when it was dug up from the red sand of the shallow grave it had been buried in.

This was the testimony of station commander, Captain Handre Bishop, when he testified before the Western Cape High Court sitting in Vredendal on Wednesday.

Bishop was at De Hoek farm on March 18, 2015, when officers found missing Pieterse after responding to a tip-off that there were flies buzzing around a disturbed piece of land. He was found about three weeks after he had last been seen.

Local farmer Martin Visser is accused of murdering Pieterse, who worked on a neighbouring smallholding.

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

It is alleged that he used a spade to beat Pieterse, who owed him money, and that he ordered the farm worker's two friends to bury his body behind the vineyards of his father's farm.

Bishop testified that an extensive search ensued after Pieterse, or "Mannetjie Dukvreet" as he was known, had been reported missing.

Police divers even combed dams and canals and Pieterse's family, who live in the Northern Cape, regularly asked whether their loved one had been found.

After receiving the tip-off, Bishop and other officers went to the scene, where they removed bushes and debris from the section they had been directed to.

"With a spade, we started to remove the sand. You could see the area had been disturbed and we dug up a wide section, at one stage even using our hands," he told Judge Nathan Erasmus.

"We knew something had to be there, because of the strong smell."

When they saw the remains emerge, the forensic pathology services were contacted.

The body was in a sitting position, "half skew", Bishop said.

"It impacted me, and many of the other officers too."

During the murder investigation, Bishop said it was reported to him that Frans "Boetie" Klaase and Patrick "Oom Grom" Klein could have information about the incident.

When he spoke to them, Klaase said he knew about the murder, while Klein claimed he "knew nothing".

Earlier, the amount of alcohol Klaase had to drink the day of Pieterse's death came into question.

Testifying in court

Klaase and Klein allegedly dug the grave after being threatened by Visser. They had been drinking at Pieterse's home the night that the farmer was accused of beating the farm worker to death, and claimed to have witnessed the incident.

Defence attorney Asghar Mia questioned Klaase about how much wine he had that week night – a date which Klaase could not recall.

He did not have any formal schooling and was unable to read the statement he had given police, but told the court it had been read back to him and that the contents were correct.

In his affidavit, recorded a-year-and-a-half after Pieterse's body was found, he said he and Klein only had one "bompie" – a one litre carton of wine – at Pieterse's neighbour John Sikala's house.

They had purchased it by Visser, who sold alcohol and groceries to the workers who would pay their debt when they received their wages on a Friday.

Klaase and Klein had each bought two bompies and Klaase said they only had one at Sikala's home as the home owner had not had any wine of his own.

But during cross-examination, he said Sikala had also had a ¾ bompie, which they had finished. He claimed Sikala had lied to them about whether he had had alcohol, and had produced the already opened bompie from his room during their drinking session on Sikala's stoep.

They had gone to Sikala's house after Sikala ostensibly stopped them on their way back from Visser's farm house when he asked Patrick for "twak" (tobacco) to roll himself a cigarette.

Klaase however later testified that Sikala had rolled himself a smoke with his own tobacco, which Mia said deviated from his original testimony.

Klaase said Sikala had pocketed Klein's tobacco because he had only very little of his own left.

He had told Patrick they needed to leave Sikala's home as it had been getting late and they still had to walk home to the neighbouring farm where they lived, he testified.

A stressful situation to be in

After leaving Sikala's home, Pieterse had spotted them, and appeared unimpressed that they had not come to his house with their wine.

They had gone to his home – situated on the border of Visser's farm, Dassieshoek – and were sitting in his kitchen/living room where they drank from a mug while Pieterse cooked.

In his statement, however, he said Sikala had also been drinking with them.

Klaase then claimed that Sikala had come to borrow some salt from Pieterse before leaving. He later said Sikala had come back to the house to drink with them.

When asked by Mia what the "real story" was, Klaase said he wasn't feeling well, complaining about his head.

Erasmus said it was a stressful situation to be in and adjourned proceedings so that Klaase could be seen to.

He is expected to continue his testimony on Thursday.

The Rural and Farmworkers' Development Organisation's Billy Claasen said on Wednesday that he was attempting to raise funds to allow Pieterse's impoverished family, who are from Prieska, to travel to Vredendal to attend court proceedings.

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Read more on:    adam pieterse  |  cape town  |  crime

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