Murder accused claims he was under the influence of drugs when confessed to killing friend’s mom

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

Murder accused Reghard Groenewald was under the influence of drugs the day he confessed to killing his friend's mother after she made advances at him, the Western Cape High Court heard on Wednesday.

But retired sleuth Mike Barkhuizen questioned this, saying the accused appeared sober and "normal" at the time.

A video of admissions Groenewald made on the day of his arrest about the murder of Hilary van Rooyen showed the then 23-year-old running his fingers through his hair and putting his head in his hands as he gave Barkhuizen his version of events on May 23, 2017.

What the confession said (translated)

"I met the son of the murder victim in 2008. He was with me at Stellenberg High School. That's where I met his mother - through him.

"About a month and a half back, he moved to London and he had a 'going away' at his house, where I told his mother I was going overseas in a few months. I would have flown this coming Wednesday, the 31st.

"Then Monday - two weeks ago, I can't remember the date – I went to say 'bye' because she said I must come and greet before I went away.

"That Monday, we drank coffee and smoked three cigarettes. I was there for about 45 minutes. Then his mother asked me to come and help her on Tuesday to move some things around.

"When I arrived there on Tuesday - I'm not sure what time it was but it was about 10:45 – we again drank coffee and smoked a few cigarettes.

"When I greeted her, I felt there was a bit of feeling. Then we bumped each other away when we realised what we were doing.

"It was then that there was a quarrel and a fight in which she landed on the ground. She kept saying that she was going to tell my girlfriend Kayleigh and everyone that I tried to come on to her.

"All I thought was that this would mess up my life as I would have gone to work in Thailand in two weeks' time.

"Then I just got the nearest thing I could. It was a vase. Then I hit her over the head with it while she was on the ground.

"I took her cellphone and house keys and walked to my car parked at Eversdal Primary School - almost in her street. Then I drove up with Stellenberg Road.

"I threw out the key next to the tennis club. After that, I drove home.

"From home, I drove to Waverley Office Park where I am studying. My girlfriend works there.

"On the way there I threw the phone out along the N1 just before the Monte Vista turnoff. This morning the police came and searched the house and arrested me."

No mention was made of him running out of petrol after visiting her the day before the murder, or of him borrowing R100 which he was returning the day of the murder, as he claimed in his plea explanation.

Advocate Ross McKernan, for Groenewald, pointed out that his client had been crying while he gave his statement.

Barkhuizen, who has since retired, said he did not recall this.

He said this could be interpreted as nervousness or he "could be feeling sorry for himself".

McKernan said it could also mean he felt bad or remorseful, and Barkhuizen conceded this.

McKernan said his client said he smoked dagga when he woke up that morning - six and a half hours before Barkhuizen took his statement.

The former policeman maintained that Groenewald had appeared lucid and of sound mind.

If he appeared "stoned", he would have investigated, Barkhuizen insisted.

"From my experience, people who smoked usually have dilated pupils. I didn't notice anything like that with the accused."

McKernan also pointed out that the document and video did not mention Groenewald's intention. This would determine whether his client had killed or murdered Van Rooyen.

Barkhuizen said Groenewald had described the event that took place that day, and that it was his role to record the statement and not "grill him" as this could illicit admissions.

Groenewald was arrested on May 23, 2017 by investigating officer Sergeant Johannes Baard and Captain Werner Bothma, the brother of a friend of Van Rooyen's husband.

Baard had shown the family video footage received from a nearby shop, which showed a black car skipping a red robot, Bothma testified.

Van Rooyen's son – the accused's friend – said Groenewald sometimes drove his father's black car.

He also said his mother had messaged him to say Groenewald had visited her the day before she was killed. Bothma recalled that she seemed surprised by the visit, but happy to have seen him.

Bothma said when he and Baard had gone to arrest the accused on May 23, 2017, Groenewald spontaneously asked: "For Aunty Hilary's murder?"

The trial continues on Thursday.

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