Stella murders: Accused’s lawyer withdraws over ‘new evidence’

2019-03-09 16:30
PHOTO: Jana van der Merwe

PHOTO: Jana van der Merwe

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Stella murder accused Xander Bylsma’s lawyer recused himself from the case on Thursday, at the start of the trial.

This comes in the wake of new evidence – a sound recording of Xander making certain admissions to private investigator Chris Saunders on the day of the murders – which has been brought to the state’s attention and shared with the defence team.

A hearing is expected on Tuesday to determine the admissibility of a transcript of the recording.

Defence lawyer Moolman Wessels told YOU on Friday (yesterday): “I had no comment yesterday, and I have no comment today either.”

Mia Spies from eNews tweeted that Moolman had withdrawn from the case due to “a conflict of interest”.

YOU has it on good authority that Wessels withdrew because he’d set Xander an ultimatum after studying the voice recording: to change the defence’s legal approach, or he’d withdraw from the case.

When asked if this was the “conflict of interest” referred to, Wessels again said, “No comment.”

The charges

Xander (19) stands accused of murdering his former girlfriend Sharnelle Hough (17) and her best friend, Marna Engelbrecht (16), in the early hours of Saturday 26 May last year. The trial had been set to start last Monday in the high court in Mmabatho, North West.

The latest delay might signal an extension of the trial beyond the 15 March deadline previously set.

Sharnelle, or Lallie as her loved ones called her, would’ve turned 18 last Friday. Anna Hough, her stepmom, wrote a heartrending note on her Facebook page describing how much the family were missing their “angel child”.

On Thursday Xander appointed a replacement instructing attorney, but keeps his original advocate.

The voice recording

Advocate Johan Smit SC, state prosecutor in the case, indicated in Monday’s court session – when the trial was meant to start – the voice recording had only been brought to his attention the week before. He said he’d handed a copy to the defence team.

Smit supported the defence team’s request for a postponement to Thursday (7 March) so that there was time to consult with the accused.

YOU was told in confidence the recording is of a conversation between Xander and Chris Saunders, a private investigator from Crime Busters Security in Hartswater. Chris is a key witness in the case.

Chris was the one who’d brought Xander to the police station in Vryburg on the day of the murders.

He’d become involved when Richard Hobson, chair of Hoërskool Stella’s body corporate, contacted him. He’d done some work for Richard on his farm.

Chris fetched Xander that afternoon from his dad’s farm, Monte. He arrived on the farm to find Xander, Monte and Stefaans Engelbrecht, the dad of murdered Marna, in the throes of a heated argument.

Stefaans left the farm and Xander went with Chris in his bakkie to the Vryburg police station, where the youngster was arrested.

Later, Xander backtracked on his confession to police, alleging that Chris had intimidated and threatened him into confessing to the murders.

That’s the reason the state is seeking to enter the voice recording into evidence.

Read more on:    kimberley  |  stella murders  |  crime

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