Burning candle found next to gas stove at Winnie Rust death scene

The late Winnie Rust's husband Manie. (Jenni Evans, News24)
The late Winnie Rust's husband Manie. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Cape Town – Winnie Rust's husband Manie never trusted Nigel Plaatjies, the young man accused of the murder of his wife in Wellington, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.

"He was at the house too often, and he could manipulate my wife," said 85-year-old Manie at the trial of Nigel and his uncle Johannes Plaatjies who were charged with murdering the writer during an alleged staged robbery on May 11, 2016.

Manie said Nigel used to eat with them, and that afterwards his wife would ask that they keep the house quiet so that Nigel could do his homework.

"She out and out spoiled him," he said.

READ: 'She was my biggest fan' - Winnie Rust murder accused

In addition to the murder charges, the two also face charges of attempted murder, as well as attempted arson for allegedly switching the Rusts' gas stove on and leaving a burning candle next to it, plus a slew of theft and fraud charges relating to the use of her bank cards and sale of her rings.

Manie said Winnie and Nigel had known each other since the boy was a child as his mother was the domestic worker at the Rusts' daughter's home in Stellenbosch.

'I did not want him in the house'

But even though his wife was friends with Nigel, bought him clothes and was helping him get into a sports training programme, the youngster put him on edge.

"I did not want him in the house," he said.

On the day Winnie died, she had an appointment with Nigel about helping him to get his driver's licence.

The Rusts had lunch as usual, then Manie pottered around for a while on the stoep. After that, he went upstairs to the main bedroom to read.

He drifted off to sleep and was woken up by the bell at the pedestrian gate.

He spoke to two people through the window, and they said they had come to repair a pool.

Manie said he had turned the pool into a fish pond, but went downstairs to speak to them anyway.

It turned out that they had the wrong address and they left.

Wrists, ankles tied up

However, he noticed that their collie and a smaller dog were running in the road. While the little dog would sneak out occasionally, the Collie was known to just stand at the gate and bark at passersby.

He managed to get the dogs back in, and it was only when he went into the house that he saw his wife of 53 years lying on the floor near the kitchen.

"I knew she was dead," said Manie.

Her wrists and ankles had been tied up and her mouth had been taped shut.

ALSO READ: Winnie Rust murder trial delayed, accused changes lawyer for the fourth time

He took the ropes off, and tore the tape off her mouth, hoping she would take a breath.

The retired doctor with more than 50 years of medical practice under his belt felt for a pulse, and there was none.

After that, he called a friend and the police. The police were there within five minutes, which helped the elderly man pin down the estimated time of when he had found her body.

He told the court that he also saw a burning candle next to the gas stove, which had been switched on.

He only looked at Nigel when Judge Elize Steyn asked him to point him out.

He said he had never seen Johannes before.

Rings pawned for R1 000

Earlier, the court heard a statement by Nigel that he reluctantly agreed to help his uncle rob Winnie because he owed money to a drug dealer in Montagu.

He pleaded guilty to charges relating to the use of her credit card after they left her on the floor, but denied the murder, attempted murder and attempted arson charges.

Johannes pleaded not guilty to all the charges except selling two rings to a pawn shop, claiming they were given to him by a "guy on the street".

After Manie's testimony, pawn shop owner Susan Swart said Johannes came in with the rings on May 11, claiming to have won them at the gambling table.

She weighed them, and gave him just over R1 000 for them.

The next day he returned and questioned the amount she had given him.

She said weighed the rings again and showed him how she had calculated the amount.

The trial continues on Tuesday.

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