Troubled childhoods, truancy and drugs: Paradyskloof murderers had a difficult life, court hears

2019-03-25 19:51
Marie Verwey (Supplied, Netwerk24)

Marie Verwey (Supplied, Netwerk24)

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Troubled childhoods, truancy, dropping out of school, and undiagnosed developmental problems emerged in the pre-sentencing hearing of the four people convicted of the murder of 80-year-old guest house owner Marie Verwey in Paradyskloof.

Reports into the personal circumstances of the woman and three men who were convicted of stabbing Verwey to death and robbing her, were presented to Judge Mushtak Parker in the Western Cape High Court on Monday so that he can decide on an appropriate sentence.

In February, Nicole Geldenhuys, who had looked after the elderly Verwey, her lover Romeo Hendricks, Enrico Malherbe and Andre Coetzee were found guilty of killing her in 2017 and robbing her of at least R700 000 in jewellery and personal items.

READ: 'They murdered an angel' - 4 found guilty of 81-year-old guest house owner's brutal murder

Nicole arrived at the house on the pretext of dropping off some fruit so that the security-conscious Verwey would open the door for her. A man Geldenhuys pretended not to know later knocked and asked for water, and the attack started.

Verwey was stabbed 62 times on February 16, 2017.

The reports on the backgrounds of the four accused revealed that Geldenhuys came from a background of severe abuse, inside and outside the home. The daughter of a domestic worker, Geldenhuys was looked after primarily by her mother, as her father was always at sea.

'Unloved, uncared for, unsafe'

However, when her father came back from sea, his drunk and violent outbursts would have her and mother running out of the house for their own safety.

"She felt unloved, uncared for, unsafe, and emotionally neglected," social worker Katrina Moses submitted in her pre-sentencing report.

"Her mother described those years as 'hell on earth'."

She said that when Nicole's father left for another woman, her mother had so little money that she would send Nicole to the neighbour to ask for some potato peels so that they could have something to eat for supper.

She was a victim of crime and so, from around the age of 14, Nicole started to show behavioural problems. She ran away from home and returned at the age of 16.

Seemingly determined to make a fresh start, she converted to Christianity, volunteered for the local neighbourhood watch, and another local community committee.

She did seasonal work on farms, worked as a waitress and a cleaner, and then decided to become a caregiver.

Criminal record of fraud

She lied about her criminal record of fraud on her application forms, knowing that she would not get work if she declared it.

The court heard that it was when she met Hendricks that her life seemed to take a turn for the worst again.

Ignoring warnings to leave him alone, she started a relationship with him, even though both of them were married to other people.

It was a fraught affair with allegations of violence and threats from Hendricks that left Geldenhuys feeling small and as though she was losing her sense of self.

Moses said that Geldenhuys said she came up with the idea to rob Verwey to make a better life for herself and Hendricks.  

By then, she had two children and gave birth to a third, Hendricks' child, in Pollsmoor Prison.

Signs of a personality disorder

Moses noted that Geldenhuys seemed to get into fights in prison and the social worker at the mother and baby unit said she showed signs of a personality disorder.

She was apparently impulsive and provocative, and was embroiled in repeated arguments and fights. Once she was in an argument she was unable to stop herself.

She said Geldenhuys appeared to be a manipulator, with a deviant personality.

This statement led Parker to request an official report on Geldenhuys's psychological or psychiatric state.

This is expected to be presented on Tuesday when the pre-sentencing proceedings resume, because Moses is not qualified in that field.

"The court heard that Malherbe did not have a relationship with his biological father from the age of seven and was left with a stepfather who gave him no attention."

So, he turned to a "negative" circle of friends who started playing a bigger part in his life.

A learning disability

He had a learning disability which was not properly assessed, and so dropped out of school.

He was found to have low self-esteem and his parents could not deal with his problems. He experimented with drugs, could not get a permanent job, and preferred his friends over his family.

The court heard that he was honest about his role in Verwey's murder, in that he stabbed her several times, and that he had verbally expressed remorse.

Moses conceded that it was possible that he may have been manipulated by Geldenhuys, given his cognitive problems.

Another social worker, Andre Brown, provided a pre-sentencing report for Hendricks, saying his mother had raised him with good values.

Truancy and threats from gangs

However, he also left school early due to truancy and threats from gangs, and took to alcohol.

He has five children, including the baby Geldenhuys gave birth to in prison.

The court heard that he had worked on farms, in a canning food factory, in a textile works, and then tried to start his own construction business.

He built on to the family home to rent a spaza shop to a Somali business person for R3 000 a month, as an income for his wife and family. He has one child studying at university.

The fourth accused, Coetzee, said he also grew up poor, but with positive role models and strong family bonds. He also dropped out of school at Grade 8 due to truancy and gang-related peer pressure.

He was a general worker for several companies and contributed to his household but was addicted to drugs.

"It seemed that the accused regrets being part of the conspiracy," said Brown. "He knows the fact that he should suffer the consequences, and can blame nobody for his wrongdoing."

And at the end of the submissions, Gabriel and Francois submitted letters to the judge to tell him how they felt. Gabriel Verwey's letter asked: "Why did she have to be taken from us so cruelly? I miss my mother every day."

Francois Verwey's statement said that the murder had betrayed their trust and had left him heartbroken and dumbfounded.

"May you get the heaviest sentence on earth," read his letter.

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