'Family friend' convicted of murdering Durbanville mom with glass vase

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Reghard Groenewald is handcuffed after being convicted of murder. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Reghard Groenewald is handcuffed after being convicted of murder. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

An aspiring English teacher who murdered his friend’s mother he claimed had come on to him, should have had the foresight that beating her with a glass vase could result in her death.

This was the judgment of Judge Derek Wille, who convicted Reghard Groenewald of murdering Hilary van Rooyen, 52, inside her Durbanville home two years ago.

Her son had found her dead body in May 2017 after he had gone to check on her when her house keys, which Groenewald had taken and discarded, were picked up and handed in at a local primary school. Only her cellphone had been missing from the house.

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.

At a farewell party held for Van Rooyen’s younger son – the accused’s high school friend - before he went to the UK, Groenewald said he and his then girlfriend told Van Rooyen about their plans and she asked him to come and greet her before he left the country.

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

He drove about 100m to 150m 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.

Groenewald had testified that on the day of the murder, Van Rooyen made advances on him and an argument ensued when he rejected her.

He pushed her and she fell, he admitted, and she held onto his pants and threatened to tell everyone he had tried to rape and assaulted her.

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

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

Wille also convicted Groenewald of theft of Van Rooyen’s R10 000 cellphone.

'Fatal consequences'

The State had called for a conviction for premeditated murder, but Wille found that it had proven a case of dolus eventualis, in that he must have foreseen that she could have died as a result of his actions.

"There is no reasonable possibility that it never occurred to him that his actions could have fatal consequences," Wille said.

Van Rooyen died of serious head injuries after Groenewald struck her at least twice.

"The only reasonable inference is that he subjectively appreciated the possibility of such violence to her head being fatal."

Following his conviction, prosecutor Evadne Kortje opposed Groenewald's release on bail pending his sentencing.

She said he was a flight risk, especially considering that he was now a convicted criminal.

Investigating officer Sergeant Johannes Baard told Wille that police did not have Groenewald's new address. This after the court heard that his family had been renting out their Welgemoed house in order to save money.

'Emotional breakdown'

Baard also referred to Groenewald not attending court on March 4. He had apparently driven to his grandfather's farm in Ceres and had had an "emotional breakdown".

The case was postponed to the following day and Groenewald had returned to the dock with a sick note.

Baard said it was not in the interest of justice to release Groenewald, as it would show one could "commit murder and still walk around freely".

Defence attorney Howard Andrews submitted a lease agreement to the court as proof of where Groenewald was living. However, this expires on July 31.

Wille, who planned to postpone the matter to August 6 for sentencing proceedings, said he required a fixed address, and the defence obtained a letter confirming that the family would be staying for an additional three months.

Wille extended Groenewald's bail with strict conditions, including that he reports to Durbanville police station every day, that his passport be retained by the investigating officer, that he not leave the Durbanville/Bellville area, and that he notify Baard of any change in his address.

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