Police fabricated statement, Winnie Rust murder accused argues

Nigel Plaatjies (Paarl Post, Netwerk24)
Nigel Plaatjies (Paarl Post, Netwerk24)

Cape Town - An initial police statement accredited to murder accused Nigel Plaatjies was a story compiled by the authorities without him knowing what it contained, the once promising athlete told the Wellington Magistrate's Court on Tuesday.

The 19-year-old, accused of murdering Afrikaans author Winnie Rust in her Uitsig home on May 11, testified that the police had fabricated parts of his statement and that he hadn't been given the opportunity to read it before he signed.

He also, however, admitted to lying to the police about his whereabouts on the day of the murder, saying he had been scared that his uncle and co-accused, Johannes Plaatjies, would hurt his family.

This is the teenager's second attempt at bail. In June, Magistrate Alvin Saptoe ruled that the State had a strong prima facie case against both suspects.

While neither gave oral evidence in their first attempt, last month Nigel testified that he walked in on the robbery.

At the start of his second bid for bail, Nigel told the court he had been forced to take part in the robbery which resulted in the murder of Rust. The author had been financially supporting the New Rest teen since childhood.

Rings stolen from Rust's hands

Nigel said he had had an appointment with Rust to discuss the matter of her financially assisting him to get his driver's licence. She had been paying for Nigel's sports activities and school fees since he was in Grade 7 and the athletics star regularly visited her home.

Nigel's mother works for Rust's daughter. 

He said four armed men, including his uncle, were in the house stealing. He was allegedly forced to take part out of fear for his life and the safety of his family.

Laptops, a handbag, bank cards and a cellphone were taken. Rings were stolen from Rust's hands.

He claimed he was forced to accompany the gang in a taxi, was made to withdraw money from her accounts and make purchases on her store accounts.

But on Tuesday the court heard that a neighbour denied seeing a taxi parked near the house that day.

Version of events questioned

Nigel said Johannes threatened to harm his family should he not comply and allegedly forced him to take R1 200, a cellphone, shoes and clothes in a bid to buy his silence.

During bail proceedings in June investigating officer Cornelius de Lange told the court that Nigel denied being at the author's home on the day of her murder until a witness insisted that they had seen him there.

According to the State, Nigel's statement made to police said Johannes forced him to help him with a robbery. This as he apparently owed a drug dealer money.

Nigel was ostensibly supposed to visit Rust, where after Johannes would rob the two at the house.

Prosecutor Mornay Julius questioned Nigel's version of events, saying he had lied to the police at the time and was now lying to the court.

Nigel, at times in tears, denied this. He insisted that the police refused to believe his version of events, dismissing it as "kak [shit]".

No prior convictions

When asked why he had not given his current version of events initially, he said he had been advised by his previous lawyer to not to testify on the merits of the case.

Julius countered that Nigel was blaming everyone from the police to his previous lawyer. He put it to him that he had listened to the State's case in his first bail application and had spent months fabricating a story to line up with the police's evidence against him.

Nigel, in turn, insisted he was now telling the truth - something he was too afraid to do at first.

He has no prior convictions. Johannes had convictions for a string of crimes, including one for housebreaking, eight for theft, two for assault and two for drunk driving.

Rust's husband Dr Manie Rust, 87, who is hard of hearing and had been sleeping upstairs during the robbery, found her body when he was awoken by the bell at the gate ringing at 15:30. She was on the kitchen floor and had injuries to her face. She had been strangled and her hands and feet were bound.

Nigel was arrested two days after Rust's murder. His fingerprints were found on a table next to the 77-year-old's body.

Johannes, 34, was arrested the following Sunday. Nigel pleaded not guilty to armed robbery and murder. Johannes is yet to plead.

Proceedings resume on Monday.

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