Winnie Rust murder accused claims he was forced into robbery

2016-10-14 21:25
Nigel Plaatjies and Johannes Plaatjies, suspects in the Winnie Rust murder case. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Nigel Plaatjies and Johannes Plaatjies, suspects in the Winnie Rust murder case. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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Cape Town - Promising athlete and murder accused Nigel Plaatjies on Friday testified he was forced to take part in a robbery at the home of Wellington author Winnie Rust, and was in fear for his life and the safety of his family.

The now 19-year-old from New Rest took to the stand in his second bid for bail in the Wellington Magistrate's Court.

Nigel and his uncle Johannes Plaatjies are accused of killing the Afrikaans writer in her Third Avenue, Uitsig, home on May 11 while her husband slept upstairs.

In June, Magistrate Alvin Saptoe ruled that the State had a strong prima facie case against the two – who had not given oral evidence - and denied them bail.

Police believe Rust was killed in a burglary gone wrong, but Nigel testified that he walked in on a robbery in progress at the author's house that day.

The teen said he had had an appointment with Rust to discuss the matter of her financially assisting him to get his driver's licence.

Nigel's mother works for Rust's daughter. Rust had been paying for Nigel's sports activities and school fees since he was in Grade 7 and the athletics star regularly visited her home.

Armed men

"I rang the bell twice and when she didn't open I went to the kitchen door. There, a man with a gun came out and told me if I made a noise he would hurt me," Nigel said from the stand.

He claimed his uncle Johannes, who is from Montagu, as well as two other men – one brandishing a gun and another, a knife – were in the kitchen.

His uncle, was apparently wearing Nigel's clothes and shoes to confuse the dogs, held Rust.

"Johannes told the man with the gun, 'Maak vrek die jong' [kill the guy]," he testified.

The gunman presumably told Nigel to take him upstairs so that he could gather goods to steal.

Laptops, a handbag and cellphone were taken from the house.

Nigel said he had seen Dr Manie Rust sleeping upstairs. He is hard of hearing.

Forced to flee with robbers

When they went back down to the kitchen, he found Johannes and one of the gunmen tying up the author.

It is unclear when Rust was strangled.

Nigel claimed his uncle removed Rust's rings from her hands, as well as bank cards. The pin numbers were apparently written on a piece of paper.

He said he was then forced to flee with the robbers in a taxi with a Montagu number plate parked nearby.

"They held a gun on me and said if I followed their instructions, nothing would happen to me.

"They took me to an ATM and forced me to withdraw money. They stood in a position so that the camera couldn't see them."

He said he made three withdrawals totalling R6 000, which was Rust's daily limit.

Buying silence

"While [I was at the ATM], Johannes and one of the men went to a [pawn shop] to sell the rings."

Once they had returned, they drove to Paarl where he and Johannes went to a shopping centre and swiped for clothes, shoes and groceries to be resold, Nigel said.

His uncle apparently threatened the lives of his mother and sister if he didn't comply.

After leaving the mall, the men dropped him near his house where Johannes allegedly forced him to take R1 200, a cellphone, shoes and clothes in a bid to buy his silence.

He said he did not tell his mother of the incident out of fear for his family's safety. He was also apparently worried that she would approach the police.

During bail proceedings in June, investigating officer Cornelius de Lange told the court that Nigel had denied being at the author's home on the day of her murder, until a witness insisted that they had seen him.

The policeman said Nigel had given a statement to police that Johannes had forced him to "help him with a burglary" and that he was to keep Rust occupied while Johannes stole valuables.

Prosecutor Mornay Julius told the court that Nigel had said, in a statement to police, that his uncle had forced him to take part in the robbery because he needed cash to pay off drug loans.

No prior convictions

Presumably, had Nigel not helped him, Johannes would have had his nephew killed.

Julius said the State found it unlikely that this is what had happened.

Nigel has no prior convictions, while Johannes had convictions for a string of crimes, including one for housebreaking, eight for theft, two for assault and two for drunk driving.

Rust's husband Dr Manie Rust, 87, found her body when he was awoken by the bell at the gate ringing at 15:30. She was on the kitchen floor and had injuries to her face. She had been strangled and her hands and feet were bound.

Nigel was arrested two days after Rust's murder. His fingerprints were found on a table next to the 77-year-old's body.

Johannes, 34, was arrested the following Sunday. Nigel pleaded not guilty to armed robbery and murder. Johannes is yet to plead.

If convicted the two could face life behind bars.

The case was postponed to November 14 for cross examination.

Read more on:    winnie rust  |  nigel plaatjies  |  cape town  |  crime

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