Drugs could have affected decision-making, Stellenbosch murder accused tells court

Marie Verwey (Supplied, Netwerk24)
Marie Verwey (Supplied, Netwerk24)

One of the men accused of the murder of Paradyskloof guesthouse owner Marie Verwey admitted that his recollection of what happened on the day of the octogenarian's brutal killing could be imprecise as he had been high on drugs at the time.

Andre "Zibby" Coetzee testified in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday that he and two of his three co-accused divided three packets of tik and two Mandrax tablets between them less than two hours before Verwey was stabbed to death while she sat in her chair at the Villa Merwe guesthouse in February 2017. When asked if there was a possibility that he could not remember everything that happened that day, he conceded that there was.

The drugs could have affected his decision-making, Coetzee said from the witness stand.

He, however, denied that he imagined any of the details given in his testimony.

He claimed Verwey's home care nurse Nicolize Geldenhuys had asked him to help her collect cupboards and clothes from Verwey's home that day. Coetzee said Geldenhuys was with her boyfriend and co-accused, Romeo Hendricks.

Supposedly realising that he would be unable to carry everything himself, he summoned Enrico "Darkie" Malherbe after spotting him sitting in the street in their neighbourhood of Klein Nederburg, Paarl.

'Killing was never part of the plan'

Geldenhuys and her three co-accused are on trial for armed robbery as well as the murder of the woman she affectionately called "Ma". She has admitted to planning a heist after previously seeing the contents of Verwey's bedroom safe but testified that killing her employer was never part of the plan.

At the start of the trial, Malherbe pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated robbery and murder.

Coetzee admitted guilt to the robbery.

ALSO READ: 'I am sorry for taking the gold' – accused in guest house owner's brutal murder

Both their pleas were rejected.

Coetzee denied knowing that they had been on their way to commit a robbery, despite testimony from his cousin Francois "Oog" Coetzee that Andre had been present while the heist was being planned.

According to Malherbe, Coetzee had given him the knife to stab Verwey. Coetzee denied this.

Employed a week before murder

Francois had not been part of the execution of their alleged plan as he had been attacked days before the robbery and had been admitted to hospital.

Geldenhuys and her now ex-boyfriend pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Geldenhuys had worked for the Verwey family since 2015, caring for the guesthouse owner's husband. After his death, her services were no longer needed, until the family employed her to take care of Verwey a week before the murder.

She claimed Malherbe had diverted from their original plan to hold up Verwey and the domestic worker and escape with the valuables. According to her, he was the only one who stabbed Verwey.

According to Coetzee, when they arrived at Verwey's house to collect the cupboards, Geldenhuys entered the home and returned to call Malherbe.

She later opened Verwey's gate and Hendricks moved the car to the driveway, he testified.

Gang connection

Geldenhuys and Malherbe returned to the car with two bags. Their clothes had blood spatters, Coetzee said.

After the two returned to the house, Geldenhuys came to call him, he alleged.

In the house, he saw "the miesies" – Verwey – dead in her chair.

ALSO READ: Murdered Stellenbosch woman, 80, 'would not have hurt a fly'

He admitted to helping Geldenhuys remove the valuables.

He testified that it was agreed when they arrived at the alleged gang leader's house in Hanover Park that Coetzee would "staan vir die goud" (take responsibility for the loot taken in the robbery), while Malherbe would take responsibility for the murder.

Judge Mushtak Parker questioned Coetzee's friendship with Malherbe, and why he still considered him a friend when Malherbe had said he had got the knife from Coetzee.

"He said he is angry at [Geldenhuys]," Coetzee said, which Parker responded didn't make sense.

Accused denies recent drug use

During his testimony, the judge asked Coetzee if he was high, as it "looks like you're on another planet".

The mumbling witness denied that he had taken any illegal substances that day, or the night before.

The case was postponed to November 2.

An apparent high-ranking member of the 26s gang and his wife have also been implicated in the planning of the robbery and the selling of the loot. They have not yet been arrested.

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