War of words in Winnie Rust murder case

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

Wellington - The postponement of the bail application for Winnie Rust murder accused Nigel Plaatjies ended in a war of words between an attorney and a magistrate in the Wellington Magistrate's Court on Monday.

Tempers flared to such an extent that Magistrate Alvin Saptoe told attorney Paul Marais - for Plaatjies - that he would not be spoken to in such a manner in his courtroom.

Plaatjies is accused of armed robbery and murder, charges he has pleaded not guilty to, relating to the killing of Rust, an Afrikaans author, in her Uitsig, Wellington, home on May 11.

Rust's husband Dr Manie Rust, 87, 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.

On Monday during court proceedings Marais was unhappy that defense lawyer Lee Louw was not available and felt this was disadvantaging his client and causing further financial stress for the Plaatjies family.

Apology

He insisted that proceedings continue without Louw, who represents Plaatjies' co-accused and uncle Johannes Plaatjies.

Marais said her attendance was not a requirement, as her client was not the one applying for bail.

But Saptoe countered that had any of the parties not been present, the matter would have been postponed.

He further stated that Louw was required to be present to counter argue Plaatjies' testimony, which incriminated her client.

Testimony from the bail application could be used against him when the matter went to trial, Saptoe pointed out.

However, Saptoe apologised to Plaatjies for the postponement on Monday.

4th postponement

"[Ms Louw] has the responsibility to ensure her client's interests are protected," he said.

"The case is dragging on too long in this forum. Of course I am concerned by this."

Prosecutor Morne Julius pointed out that Louw had previously indicated her availability on Monday could be impacted by another case and said this needed to be considered.

Monday's postponement was the fourth time proceedings in Plaatjies' second bail application were postponed.

Plaatjies previously testified that he had been forced to take part in the robbery which resulted in Rust's murder. 

In June, Saptoe ruled that the State had a strong prima facie case against Plaatjies and his uncle.

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

Claim of threats against family

The teen 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 Plaatjies' sports activities and school fees since he was in Grade 7 and the athletics star regularly visited her home. His 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.

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

He said his uncle threatened to harm his family if he did not comply.

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

No prior convictions

The police officer said according to Plaatjies' statement, his uncle forced him to "help him with a burglary".

Plaatjies was to keep Rust occupied while his uncle stole valuables.

Plaatjies had no prior convictions.

His uncle had convictions for a string of crimes, including one for housebreaking, eight for theft, two for assault and two for drunk driving.

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

His uncle, who is yet to plead, was arrested the following Sunday.

The matter is set to continue on Tuesday.

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