Cape Town mom's 2 'friends' found guilty of her murder

Ronaldo van Rooyen and Tawfeeq Ibrahim. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Ronaldo van Rooyen and Tawfeeq Ibrahim. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Two men accused of murdering Kuils River mom Zarah Hector, 34, have been found guilty in the Western Cape High Court.

Ronaldo van Rooyen, 34, and Tawfeeq Ibrahim, 26, were expressionless when they were on Wednesday convicted of murder and aggravated robbery.

Hector's body was found wrapped in plastic and dumped in Groot Drakenstein in March 2016.

She was bludgeoned to death with a hammer or similar object, allegedly in the garage at Van Rooyen’s parents' home.

According to the post-mortem, she died of extensive blunt force head injuries.

Both accused had pleaded not guilty, and opted not to testify.

READ: Missing witness delays Zarah Hector murder case

Hector was last seen by a colleague leaving the Oostenberg Lodge in Kuils River, where she worked. Her body was found nine days later.

The men are believed to have murdered Hector because they wanted to steal the BMW Z3 she was driving. She allegedly owed Van Rooyen "a lot of money”.

The vehicle belonged to Hector's boyfriend.

Following her disappearance, Hector's loved ones had called the police and told them that she may be at Van Rooyen's house.

The three had apparently been friends.

Tried to sell car

A search of the house resulted in nothing unusual being found.

Van Rooyen had told police that Hector had been to his home to borrow money, but he had told her he didn't have any.

He claimed she had left in the Z3.

Hector's brother Brandon testified that he too had gone to see Van Rooyen to ask if he had heard from his youngest sister.

Van Rooyen again said she had tried to borrow money from him and that he hadn't seen her since. Brandon had given Van Rooyen his number in case Hector contacted him, and the murder accused phoned him the following day, claiming that she was "at a Nigerian's house".

When loved ones went to check the address given to them, they didn't find Hector or the car.

Van Rooyen had been seen by witnesses driving the luxury vehicle after Hector's disappearance.

The car was found on March 17 in Rochester Road, Salt River, and identified as the vehicle connected to Hector's disappearance.

The two men allegedly tried to sell the car for R5 000, but after failing to find a buyer, dumped it with parts missing. They were arrested a week later, shortly before Hector's decomposing remains were found in a small ditch next to a road in Paarl, wrapped in plastic and bound with electrical cords.

She was identified through DNA testing.

Accused acted together

In his judgment, Judge Lister Nuku said the accused were the last people seen in Hector's company.

He said witness testimony showed both had been inside the vehicle and had attempted to sell it, and evidence from potential buyers and people Van Rooyen had tried to sell the parts to was undisputed.

He referred to a statement made by Van Rooyen to the police, indicating where the body had been disposed of.

Ibrahim, in his police statement, had claimed he had been an accomplice out of fear, but Nuku said this was not supported by the evidence.

Neither had taken the court into their confidence by giving evidence, he pointed out, strengthening the prosecution's case.

While the evidence presented couldn't establish the role of each of the accused, Nuku said there was no doubt that they had acted together.

The State relied on circumstantial evidence, but had proven its case beyond a reasonable doubt, Nuku concluded.

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