Why would I want to hurt her? asks Winnie Rust murder accused

Nigel Plaatjies is led to the police vehicle. (Tammy Petersen, News24)
Nigel Plaatjies is led to the police vehicle. (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Cape Town - The man accused of murdering Wellington author Winnie Rust allegedly warned his nephew and co-accused that he had damning evidence against him and would turn State witness in a letter delivered to him while behind bars. 

Promising athlete Nigel Plaatjies on Friday testified that his uncle Johannes Plaatjies had sent him two letters while in jail lamenting that "everything was being piled on [him]".

"I am going to turn State witness....Ek gaan jou tronk toe praat," the teenager read form a letter during his second attempt at bail in the Wellington Magistrate's Court on Friday.

Nigel told the court that he and his uncle were being held in separate sections of the prison.

Johannes nevertheless managed to send him the letter in which he told his nephew he would provide police with phone records and messages to show his involvement.

The letter further reads that Nigel had strangled and conspired to kill Rust.

Fear over family's safety

Nigel countered that he would never hurt Rust.

"She was good to me. Why would I want to hurt her?" he asked.

Nigel claimed Johannes forced him to take part in a robbery at the author's Third Avenue, Uitsig home on May 11 and he complied in fear for his family's safety.

According to his version, he stumbled upon a robbery involving his uncle and three other men when he went to visit Rust to speak about her helping with money to get his drivers' licence.

Nigel's mother works for Rust's daughter. Rust 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.

He said he found the robbers in the kitchen when he walked to the side of the house after Rust failed to answer the door.

No lawyer present

He claimed he was forced to help the robbers get their loot in fear for his life and, later, to withdraw money and make purchases after his uncle threatened to kill his mother and sister.

After being taken in for questioning two days later, he made a statement to police because he "wanted to tell the truth".

He said police promised him he would be released once he had given his version, but instead he was arrested.

Nigel claimed he had not read the statement but had signed because the investigating officer had told him to.

After he was informed that he could be incriminating himself the then 18-year-old claimed he had asked to consult with a legal representative.

The officer however continued to take the affidavit without a lawyer present, Nigel testified.

"He said if I tell the truth I can go home. That's why I continued with the statement."

Nigel had told police that Johannes had forced him to "help him with a burglary" and that he was to keep Rust occupied while Johannes stole valuables.

Facing life behind bars

Nigel has no prior convictions while Johannes has 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, 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.

Days after he reapplied for bail last month citing "new facts", Nigel was assaulted by gangsters at Allendale Prison.

He was then moved to a single cell for his safety.

If convicted, the two could face life behind bars.

The case was postponed to November 14 for cross examination.

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