Witness denies being threatened, assaulted by police into making statement after farmworker's murder

2018-05-11 17:34
Protesters from the Mitzikamma Farmworkers Forum picket outside the Vredendal Magistrates Court where Martin Visser is appearing for the murder of farmworker Adam Pieterse. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Protesters from the Mitzikamma Farmworkers Forum picket outside the Vredendal Magistrates Court where Martin Visser is appearing for the murder of farmworker Adam Pieterse. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

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A State witness has denied that he was threatened into telling the version of events he gave in court about what happened on the night farm worker Adam Pieterse was killed, allegedly by Lutzville farmer Martin Visser. This is despite the defence claiming to have three witnesses who say he was forced into making his police statement.

Frans Klaase denied telling three farmworkers named by the defence on Friday in a Western Cape High Court sitting in Vredendal that the investigating officer had threatened or assaulted him into making a confession.

"I never told them that," he insisted.

READ: Farm worker recounts fear while watching his friend being beaten

Klaase said the incident had disturbed him, and he remembered what had happened every time he passed the home of Pieterse – or Mannetjie Dukvreet, as he was known.

Defence attorney Asghar Mia pointed out that he had not been bothered enough by what had happened to approach police, only telling his story when approached by detectives 18 months later.

"If I spoke, I would get hurt too," Klaase testified before the packed gallery.

Too afraid to intervene

Visser is accused of killing Pieterse by beating him with a spade in his home on the border of the accused's Dassieshoek farm in Lutzville in February 2015.

Klaase claimed to have witnessed the assault when he and another farmworker, Patrick Klein, were drinking at Pieterse's house. Visser allegedly stormed in and started hitting their friend, claiming he owed him money.

The accused ran a shop from the garage of his farmhouse, selling groceries and wine on credit. The farmworkers paid on Fridays when they received their wages.

Klaase claimed that he and Klein had not tried to intervene during the attack because he had been too afraid.

He said Visser had instructed him and Klein to help him get their friend's lifeless body through the back window and to get him onto the quad bike.

They were then ordered to dig a grave for their friend behind the vineyard of Visser's father's nearby farm, De Hoek, Klaase alleged.

Evidence of blood

Visser, who is the son of the two witnesses' then employer Chris Visser, threatened them into keeping quiet about what had happened that night, he testified.

Pieterse's remains were discovered by police three weeks later after farmworkers apparently saw Visser at the spot and noticed flies buzzing around the disturbed earth. Pieterse's body had been in an advanced stage of decomposition, which affected the confirmation of the cause of his death.

Visser has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and four charges of common assault of three other people.

ALSO READ: Farmworker beaten and dragged behind quad bike, court hears

Klaase said after the assault, his friend had been bleeding profusely, and the floor of the farmhouse had been covered in blood.

But photos taken two days after the incident when police investigated a missing person's report didn't show proof of this, Mia pointed out.

Prosecutor Christenus van der Vijver interjected and said that the blood may have been cleaned up. He said forensics experts would testify that what is possibly blood had indeed been found.

Sobriety questioned

When initially approached by police, Klaase didn't say what he knew but referred to a previous incident where Visser had asked him about Pieterse's whereabouts because he "wil hom sommer vrek maak (wants to kill him)".

Mia questioned why Klaase had not warned Pieterse about the threat.

"I didn't think Martin would do it."

On the night of the murder, it was established that Klaase, Klein, neighbour John Sikala and Pieterse had drunk almost five bompies (one-litre cartons of wine).

Mia put it to him that this could be the reason he "can't remember [his] story so well".

Judge Nathan Erasmus asked him if this could be the case.

"Yes," Klaase replied.

'Keep your hands off farmworkers'

He said that after Pieterse's body was found, Visser had not threatened him.

Mia asked if Klaase would have given his story to the authorities if they had not approached him for information more than a year after the incident.

"I would have told the police. It would have bothered me," he testified.

Klaase claimed he hadn't spoken out because he "was careful".

"Visser had other friends too, who could come hurt me at my house at night."

But Mia pointed out that Klaase still went to Visser's shop to purchase goods on credit.

Klaase also admitted that he had still driven to town with the accused.

Mia said his client denied being with Klaase and Klein that night or hitting Pieterse with a spade.

Klaase insisted that he had.

Earlier on Friday, members of the Matzikama Farmworkers' Forum protested outside the Vredendal Magistrate's Court, carrying signs that read: "Plaasboere, hou julle hande af van plaaswerkers [Farmers keep your hands off farmworkers]" and "Stop plaaswerkers moorde [Stop the murders of farmworkers]".

 The trial resumes on Tuesday.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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