Court to rule if man, 87, can be held liable for wife's murder after being declared unfit for trial

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Dieter Bergs and his son outside the Johannesburg Magistrate's court on 26 September 2014.
Dieter Bergs and his son outside the Johannesburg Magistrate's court on 26 September 2014.
PHOTO: Cornel van Heerden, Gallo Images/Foto24
  • A Johannesburg pensioner charged with killing his wife in 2014 appeared in court in a frail state on Tuesday.
  • Dieter Bergs allegedly killed his wife, Genée, but charges were dropped, only to be reinstated after the deceased's daughter lodged a complaint with the police commissioner and NPA.
  • Just before his trial started early this year, he was found unfit to stand trial.

Can a man declared unfit to stand trial for the alleged murder of his wife still be found liable for her death?

This is the tough decision that the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg must come to in the case against Dieter Bergs.

Bergs is accused of killing his wife, Genée Bergs, in their home eight years ago. At the time, Bergs claimed that an intruder had killed his wife after gaining entry to the home through a sliding door.

ALSO READ | Court denies bail for man accused of killing wife, burying her remains under bathtub

During the attack, Bergs suffered a minor injury to the leg when he was allegedly shot at. No items were stolen from the house.

At the time of the incident, he didn't tell the police that he owned firearms. The firearms were discovered by family members a few days after the incident while clearing out a closet. He claimed that he had forgotten about the firearms.

A few weeks later, the gardener found a third firearm buried in the garden. In a statement, Bergs said he had borrowed the firearm from a friend.

He was first arrested a few months after the murder. The murder charge was dropped a year later after a ballistic report presented in the case was discredited.

Rearrested after inquest

In August 2016, Genée's daughter lodged a formal complaint with the Gauteng police commissioner and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA).

This led to an inquest at the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg in 2017. The court concluded that Bergs should be charged for the crime.

Bergs was rearrested in December 2020. He was charged with murder and fraud after allegedly forging a signature to transfer money from Genée's bank account to his accounts. He also faces charges of illegal possession of an unlicensed firearm, illegal possession of ammunition, and uttering.

ALSO READ | Mpumalanga man accused of killing wife after arguing over cellphone call

He is out on R10 000 bail.

Just before his trial started early this year, he was found unfit to stand trial. This was backed up by a psychiatric report from Sterkfontein Psychiatric Hospital.

The court now has to, on the balance of probabilities, determine whether he is guilty of the crimes in terms of Section 77 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

Financial problems

If found guilty, prosecutor, advocate Michelle Bayat, said they wanted Dieter to be admitted to a frail care facility under supervision.

Dieter, wearing a gown, attended the court case via a Teams link from Cape Town as he couldn't travel because of his medical condition. He was assisted by his son, Peter, who said he was relaying the court proceedings to him.

He said:

His hearing isn't good. I have to relay everything to him, my lord. I am sitting next to him.

Bayat told the court that Dieter had financial problems and a motive to kill his wife.

"The accused relied heavily on the deceased financially. There was talk of the deceased having an investment that was supposed to mature on her 70th birthday. The proceeds of that policy were only going to be paid a day after she was murdered," Bayat said.

The policy was worth R4 million, but the State failed to trace the policy and who it was paid out to.

Dieter is also accused of forging his wife's signature and transferring her shares to himself.

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