Cape Town – Convicted murderer Johannes Plaatjies on Wednesday denied any involvement in the robbery and murder of Afrikaans author Winnie Rust, claiming to have only been involved in the "shopping" with her stolen cards.
Plaatjies blamed Rust’s death solely on his co-accused and nephew, Nigel Plaatjies, a promising athlete who she had been supporting financially.
Johannes, who has a string of convictions to his name, denied forcing Nigel into committing the crimes, and claimed to have never threatened his relatives’ well-being to convince him to be part of the plot.
He claimed that Nigel had, on the day of the murders, taken him shopping with R16 000 that he had claimed to have gotten from selling a bike that Rust had given him.
Johannes from Montagu, in his plea explanation, said that on the day of the murder, he had been in Paarl, but on Wednesday claimed to have been in Wellington to "collect money from the scrap man".
Nigel ostensibly phoned him and told him to wait in Wellington, and they later met up, where Nigel gave him a laptop and two rings to sell.
Johannes said he had not been at the Rust house at all on that day. A neighbour saw Nigel outside the house, but no one had spotted Johannes.
However, cellphone records of calls between him and Nigel place him in the vicinity of the house, prosecutor Freek Geyser said.
'He said he was going to do something big'
Johannes maintained he had not been there and had not been aware of how Nigel had obtained the goods or cards.
Nigel smirked as Johannes testified, at times shaking his head during Johannes’ testimony.
Geyser presented Nigel with the letter that Johannes had written to his 20-year-old nephew while awaiting trial.
In it, he wrote that he would tell the court that Nigel had planned the crime and would show the phone records and messages he had been sent.
Geyser said Nigel had told Johannes about what he planned to do beforehand.
Johannes responded: "He said he was going to do something big. He didn’t say what he would do."
Geyser pointed out that the letter mentioned that Rust had been sprayed with pepper spray and that Nigel had choked her. Johannes countered by saying that a relative had told him this after the then-18-year-old’s arrest.
Johannes, a father of five, claimed Nigel had asked him to write the letter.
He said that during their "shopping" spree, he had not checked the name on the bank card that Nigel had given him.
'I feel the pain and go through it with them'
Nigel had alleged that Rust had given him the laptops, which he wanted to sell, and that he had "taken" the rings.
Nigel’s mother, Lien, had worked for Rust's daughter, as well as in Rust's home, and the author had known him since he was a little boy.
Rust had been paying for Nigel's sports activities and school fees since Grade 7. He was a regular visitor to her home and she had often helped him with his homework, even paying for a tutor when he was struggling with maths.
Nigel and Johannes were convicted in December of robbing and murdering Rust in her home in Uitsig, Wellington, on May 11, 2016.
Judge Elize Steyn found that the two accused had acted together when they committed the crime, despite Nigel's claim that he was forced by Johannes, who is his mother's brother and who has a string of convictions to his name.
Johannes, despite in some cases paying admission of guilt fines, said he had taken the fall for his friends in all of them, "except maybe one".
He apologised to the Roos family, appealing to the court to show him leniency as his children were still young.
"I want to tell the family that I am sorry about what happened to Mrs Rust, and that I feel the pain and go through it with them. You can’t bring someone back; it’s a very heartbreaking [situation]."
Sentencing proceedings were postponed to February 27 for closing arguments.