State unable to connect accused to Rust murder

Nigel Plaatjies and his uncle Johannes Plaatjies (File, Jenni Evans, News24)
Nigel Plaatjies and his uncle Johannes Plaatjies (File, Jenni Evans, News24)

Cape Town – The State has been unable to place Johannes Plaatjies in the home of acclaimed Afrikaans author Winnie Rust at the time of her murder, it emerged in the Western Cape High Court on Monday. 

However, Advocate Freek Geyser, for the State, argued that it was "beyond reasonable doubt" that Johannes, who stands accused of the murder along with his nephew Nigel Plaatjies, actively took part in the execution of Rust' murder. 

READ: Rust death scene 'very neat', says cop

"The State argues that (Johannes) Plaatjies is guilty of murder based on the plea testimony; the cellphone data which shows how he moved around in the area... and the letter he wrote to Nigel beforehand where he was informed of the murder," Geyser said. 

Signal data from Johannes' cellphone placed him in proximity to Rust's home at the time of the murder, but his fingerprints weren't found at the scene. 

Johannes was also not seen on the property by eyewitnesses. 

Geyser said that in a letter Johannes wrote to 19-year-old Nigel, before the murder, he discussed the details of a theft at Rust's home. 

Rings, bank card were 'gifts'

While Johannes went into detail about how the robbery would help his hungry children, he stopped short of implicating himself in the planned burglary. 

The letter was meant to be destroyed, Geyser said. 

Legal Aid lawyer Advocate Ken Klopper, for Johannes, said that the State was unable to reasonably convince the court that Johannes was the mastermind or even a culprit in Rust's murder. 

Klopper agreed that Johannes could be found guilty on the grounds that he sold Rust's rings and fraudulently using her bank card, but he should be found not guilty of murder, attempted murder and attempted arson. 

"Accused number two (Johannes) accepted the rings from Nigel and the bank card under the impression that Nigel is gifting him," Klopper said.  

While Nigel's fingerprints were found in Rust's home, his attorney Yasmine Rajap said Nigel was an innocent bystander to Rust's murder. 

Claims that Nigel was 'not aware' of Rust's death

He has previously confessed to being at Rust's house at the time of the murder, but maintained that he was coerced into the robbery by his uncle and two other men. 

Rajap said Nigel was not aware that Rust had died and went to the shops following the robbery with Rust's bank card under the assumption that she was still alive. 

When questioned by Judge Elize Steyn about how it was possible for Nigel to miss Rust's corpse when he was at the property, Rajap said he assumed she was unconscious but not dead. 

READ: Winnie Rust murder accused will not testify

"I am however limited by the fact that Nigel wished not to testify. I am mostly only able to use his plea statement," Rajap said. 

Rust helped fund Nigel's education and he frequented her home before her murder. 

Judge Steyn postponed the matter to December 4 for sentencing. 

Both Johannes and Nigel remain in custody.

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