Cape Town – The Western Cape High Court has convicted promising Wellington athlete, Nigel Plaatjies, and his uncle, Johannes Plaatjies, of the murder and robbery of author Winnie Rust.
Judge Elize Steyn found that the two accused had acted together when they killed her in her home on May 11, 2016.
"Nigel tried to minimise his role," Steyn said of the man, who denied killing Rust and who claimed that his uncle had coerced him into participating in a robbery at Rust’s home.
Nigel described Rust as his "greatest fan".
His mother had worked for Rust's daughter and he was a regular visitor to Rust's home.
Rust had taken him under her wing and, on the day she died, she had planned to help him get his driver's licence.
However, he let the dogs out instead, and he and his uncle killed her and robbed her of her jewellery and laptop, Steyn said.
Rust’s husband Manie found her body.
Steyn did not find them guilty of the "bizarre" attempted murder and arson, which involved allegedly switching on the gas of a stove and putting a burning candle next to it.
Dr Deidre Abrahams, who conducted an autopsy Rust, testified that there were signs that she had tried to fight off her attacker. Tape was put around her neck and her airways were blocked so that she could not breathe.
Sentencing proceedings in 2018
The judge found that there was also evidence that both men benefited from Rust’s bank cards after they went on a shopping spree. Both were found guilty of fraud as a result of this.
The pair stood trial for murder, attempted murder, attempted arson and a raft of theft and fraud charges.
They had also been accused of stealing her laptop and rings, which were recovered.
In his plea agreement, Nigel pleaded guilty to theft charges related to the use of her bank cards, and not guilty to murder, attempted murder and attempted arson charges.
Johannes had pleaded not guilty to all of the charges but admitted that he had sold two gold rings.
Nigel said in his plea agreement that he had reluctantly agreed to help Johannes stage a robbery because Johannes owed a drug dealer money.
He said he had never meant for Rust to die.
Rust's family left quickly after the judgment was handed down.
Nigel and Johannes were led back into custody and the case returns to court on February 5 for sentencing proceedings.