'Aunty Hilary' was a 'good', 'nice' woman - her alleged murderer tells court

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Reghard Groenewald outside the High Court.  (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)
Reghard Groenewald outside the High Court. (Jaco Marais, Netwerk24)

Murder accused Reghard Groenewald has described "Aunty Hilary" – the woman he is accused of killing – as a good-hearted and welcoming woman with whom he had no issues.

Testifying in his own defence on Tuesday in the Western Cape High Court, he said he had told Hilary van Rooyen – the mother of his high school friend Luke - that he and his girlfriend planned to go abroad and start a life overseas.

Luke found her dead body in her Eversdal house in May 2017. He had gone to check on her after her house keys were picked up and handed in at a local primary school. Only her cellphone had been missing from the house.

In an earlier plea explanation, Groenewald said he had visited Van Rooyen on May 8, 2017 - the day before she was killed – because he wanted to say goodbye ahead of leaving the country to teach English abroad.

On Tuesday, the court heard that at a farewell party held for Luke before he went to the UK, Groenewald said he and his then girlfriend told Van Rooyen about their plans.

'I just forgot'

Prosecutor Evadne Kortje asked him why he didn't mention that she had invited him to visit before he left the country.

But he responded that he "just forgot".

He described their relationship as "good" and called her a "nice" woman with whom he didn't have "any troubles".

During his testimony, Groenwald referred to Van Rooyen as "Aunty Hilary", saying he did this out of respect.

On Tuesday, he testified that he and Van Rooyen had spoken about Thailand – where he had been planning to go – and about Luke and how he was adapting in London.

Their interaction was friendly and she seemed interested in his plans, he told Judge Derek Wille.

There were "good vibes" and everything was normal, Groenewald testified.

A cup of coffee and three cigarettes

They had a cup of coffee and three cigarettes before he left, he recalled.

He drove about 100 metres to 150 metres before he ran out of petrol and he returned to Van Rooyen's house to borrow R100.

She gave him the money and he promised to return it the next day.

He later drove to his girlfriend's workplace in Observatory. He told her he would return to Van Rooyen's house the next day to "move some boxes" because he was embarrassed to say he had borrowed money.

READ: Man accused of murder claims his friend's mother made advances towards him

In his plea explanation, Groenewald said he had smoked dagga the day of Van Rooyen's death before going to the gym and returning to the house to return the cash.

There, Van Rooyen ostensibly made advances on him and an argument ensued when he rejected her.

He pushed her and she fell, his plea explanation reads, and she held onto his pants and threatened to tell someone that he had made advances on her and assaulted her.

Groenewald claimed a vase was the nearest object he could grab to "hit the deceased off me".

No intention to kill

He took the house keys and cellphone but got rid of it after fleeing the house.

In his papers, he said he had not intended to kill her.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, Groenewald told the court he smoked dagga every other day, but quickly insisted he didn't smoke during his trial.

Dagga helped him focus on gym, he said.

He started smoking it in 2012, he explained, and would do so daily if he "[didn't] have something to do".

"You are not here for that," Kortje told him. "You are here for more serious crimes."

He had also been on steroids two weeks before the incident and had not yet gone for post cycle therapy, which would level out his hormones.

The steroids made one short-tempered, disturbed sleep and was "not lekker", he said. Groenewald recalled that at the time, he felt strong and his body heat was higher than normal.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

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