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Soft sniffling and crying could be heard in the Gqeberha High Court just moments after Dylan Cullis, one of the accused in the Vicki Terblanche murder case, was sentenced to 18 years' imprisonment this morning, March 29.
The 22-year-old was sentenced after confessing his involvement in the murder by means of a plea statement read into the record by state prosecutor, adv. Marius Stander.
After hearing that his only son would be behind bars for almost two decades, William Cullis went to the dock to support his son, both crying softly with their heads bowed and William's hand covering his face. It was also revealed in court that Cullis is the father of a 10-month-old baby girl, that he would now not get to see grow up.
Cullis was convicted of three counts: murder, for which he received 18 years, robbery with aggravating circumstances, for which he was sentenced to 10 years and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, that landed him five years in prison. Although it amounts to 33 years, the last two sentences will be running concurrently with the murder charge, thus amounting to a total of 18 years in prison.
Several details surrounding what allegedly happened the night of October 18, 2021 when Vicki was killed and the days leading up to it, were revealed in court. Cullis admitted to helping bury Vicki's body in a shallow grave along with co-accused and Vicki's boyfriend at the time of her death, Reinhardt Leach and Mario de Ridder.
According to his confession, he only met Leach and Vicki for the first time three days before the murder, on October 15, 2021. On this day he, along with De Ridder, that he had met three weeks prior, went to Vicki and Leach's house. All of them attended a house party in Sherwood later the same night and Cullis claimed that the two looked happy and acted like a normal couple.
He explained that on October 18, he and De Ridder found themselves at Vicki's house again with Leach, where the three of them used drugs and played Xbox. On this particular day, Vicki was not feeling well so they left her at home when the three of them took a drive in a white BMW.
"Leach then told us that he was looking for a firearm. Neither me nor Mario enquired as to why Leach wanted a firearm. I was assuming that Leach wanted the firearm for protection in the abalone business as I knew that Leach and Mario were actively involved in the abalone underworld," Cullis said in his confession.
"Leach asked me if I knew anyone that could provide him with a firearm. I said no, but lied and said I could try and phone some people. I never knew anyone that could help us with a firearm but I wanted to be cool and impress Leach and try to fit into his group," he added.
After acquiring a firearm himself, Leach allegedly fired two shots from the vehicle whilst driving in the Seaview area. On the way back to Vicki's house, Leach allegedly said that he needed the firearm to kill Vicki.
"I asked him why. He replied that her husband wanted her dead. At first, I thought that he was just high and not being serious. There was also no reaction from Mario, which I thought was strange. This lack of confirmation confirmed my suspicion that Leach was not really serious, it was just talk."
Cullis said that during a conversation with Vicki moments later when they continued using drugs and playing Xbox, he considered telling her about Leach's plan to shoot her, but was still convinced that Leach was not being serious. He claims that in any event, he would not have had the opportunity as Leach was frequently moving in and out of the room where they were talking.
He admits to taking money from Leach and buying 30 to 40 Percocet tablets in Shauderville after Leach allegedly said that he did not know how to kill Vicki and De Ridder allegedly suggested making it look like a drug overdose.
According to him, the four of them later all used some of these drugs, that generally induces drowsiness, a slow mellowness, feelings of relaxation and that to a certain extent, causes a drug-induced "high."
"I could see that it had a severe effect on Vicki and Leach took her to their room. Leach remained in the room with her and Mario and I continued to play Xbox on the TV. Leach returned after about 15 minutes and crushed some of the pills. He mixed it into an orange-looking drink and gave me a sip. It tasted bitter. Leach returned to their bedroom with the drink to give it to Vicki.
"After about 30 minutes, Leach came out of the room telling me that he had given her the drink and that he had sex with her. He then went back to the room, leaving the door open and a few minutes later I could hear him snoring. I realised that he was continuing with the plan as I overheard in the vehicle. At that stage, Mario was falling asleep whilst I continued to play Xbox."
Cullis added that when he decided to go and see what was happening in the room, he found Leach and Vicki lying on the bed next to each other. Vicki was allegedly starting to gag and he tried to wake her up without waking Leach, so he started shaking her leg.
He claimed that when she started reacting to an extent where he could help her to the spare bedroom, he tried to tell her but she just couldn't stay awake. When she fell asleep again, he placed her on her side.
"I was sitting on the bed next to her thinking about a plan to rescue her but I also fell asleep as a result of the drugs that I had taken. I woke up when Leach walked into the room. He did not say anything but I could see that he was confused with the situation of Vicki being in another room. I followed him into the dining room where we found Mario," he said.
Cullis explained that an agitated Leach wanted to know if he had sex with Vicki, to which he replied no. He didn't respond when Leach wanted to know why she was in the spare bedroom.
"I realised that Leach was now cross with me because as a result of my action to move her onto her side, her death by choking on her own vomit could not materialise. Leach told me: 'You go and do it now.' I went to the bedroom and just stared at her, not knowing what to do. I called out to Leach. He came into the bedroom and found me just standing there. He then got on top of her, tightened the blanket over her, removed the pillow from underneath her head and started to smother her with it.
"Vicki was still alive when Mario came into the room and we just looked on while Leach was smothering Vicki," Cullis said.
He said that he, with De Ridder, changed her clothes because she was lying in her own urine and collected her clothes, jewellery and other personal items. Leach allegedly instructed the two of them to put socks over their hands, wrap Vicki's body in a sheet and blanket and move her body to the BMW. He claimed that the body didn't fit into the boot so Leach allegedly forced it into the boot of the BMW.
Cullis explained that Leach drove around aimlessly, with no plan as to how they were going to get rid of the body. At one stage Leach allegedly also suggested that they do go-carting in order to secure alibis.
After allegedly paying someone R1 200 to dig a grave, the three men went to Chelsea's Sports Bar to kill time with a few drinks and gambling, with money sponsored by Leach.
Cullis admitted that he was a willing participant to the grave digging and concealment of Vicki's body as he played an active role as the "lookout."
"As far as the murder of Vicki is concerned, I admit that I made common cause with Leach who was smothering her. I manifested my sharing of a common purpose with Leach by not saving the deceased or stopping Leach."
Cullis added that he remains deeply remorseful for all the pain and suffering caused to his parents and Vicki's child and family, especially because his actions effectively deprived a teenage child of a mother and his own child of a father.
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His co-accused, Vicki's husband Arnold Terblanche, is out on bail of R1 million. Leach remains in custody.
They will appear in the Gqeberha Magistrate's Court on April 19.
They face several charges after Vicki's body was found in a shallow grave in Greenbushes on October 23, 2021.