The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg heard on Thursday that one of the so-called Krugersdorp Killers, Marcel Steyn, has the mindset of a 10-year-old as she was brainwashed by her aunt, Cecilia Steyn, into being complicit in their murder spree between 2012 and 2016.
Marcel, Cecilia and Zak Valentine were in court for day three of their pre-sentencing proceedings.
The trio has been found guilty of 32 counts between them, including murder, fraud, racketeering and robbery.
Between 2012 and 2016, Marcel, who is now 21, was part of a group that called itself Electus per Deus (Chosen by God), which murdered 11 people.
During mitigation of sentence, advocate Sharon Johnson, representing Marcel, said she was under the influence of Cecilia who was dubbed a master manipulator and leader of what had been described as a religious cult.
"From the time accused number three [Marcel] came into contact with accused number two [Cecilia] and her mother placed her in her care, up until the time of her arrest and up until she decided to change her version and come clean to the court, accused number three was under the same manipulation, the same control, the same spell, and the same state of mind that she was as a 10-year-old child."
Victim of manipulation
Johnson said although Marcel had matriculated with six distinctions and was a highly intelligent person, she had not grown emotionally while under Cecilia's spell.
Judge Ellem Jacob Francis questioned whether Marcel could not be a master manipulator herself.
"From the evidence already led, accused number three [Marcel] does not appear to be a person who can manipulate, in fact she appears to be the victim of manipulation," Johnson countered.
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She added Marcel had come to court with the view of opening her heart and testifying truthfully, which showed when she testified to incidents that she herself was not charged with.
Speaking about Marcel's personal circumstances, Johnson said if the court considered them in conjunction with all the other factors, there was substantial and compelling factors for mitigation of sentence.
Possibility of rehabilitation
News24 previously reported that psychologist Rosalind Macnab believed Marcel could be rehabilitated and integrated back into society following her sentence.
"Marcel never lived a normal life. She was manipulated, brainwashed into believing that the group [Electus Per Deus] was God's way. She believed if she did not follow their way she would die, something she is still fearing," Macnab told the court during earlier pre-sentencing hearings.
Marcel's mother, former school teacher Marinda Steyn, is currently serving 11 life terms and 115 years in prison, while her brother, Le Roux Steyn, who was also part of the group, is serving 35 years after he entered into a plea bargain with the State for his role in seven of the murders. Ten years of his sentence were suspended on condition that he testify at the trial.
Another member of the group, John Barnard, who also testified during the trial, is currently serving 20 years, News24 earlier reported.
Judge Francis is expected to hand down the sentences on Monday.
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