Winnie Rust likely to have been killed by two people - expert

Forensic pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams. (Jenni Evans, News24)
Forensic pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams. (Jenni Evans, News24)

Cape Town – A forensic pathologist has told the Western Cape High Court that it was likely that two people were involved in the murder of Wellington author Winnie Rust.

The pathologist, Dr Deidre Abrahams, told the court that, judging from the bruises on Rust’s body, someone may have held her arms from behind.

"I think it is most likely that there were two people involved," she said.

Nineteen-year-old Nigel Plaatjies and his uncle, Johannes Plaatjies, have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder and attempted arson.

'Filled with remorse'

The teen claimed in a statement before court that he helped his uncle to rob Rust, but denied killing her. He said he did not intend for Rust to die and that he was filled with remorse.

Testifying on Thursday, Abrahams said cuts and bruises indicated that the 77-year-old author fought for her life for three to five minutes.

READ MORE: Winnie Rust, 77, may have tried to fight off killer – pathologist

"She's resisting, she's pulling away, she's trying to get away," Abrahams postulated.

"I think it could have been more than three grabs at her face and neck area," she said, suggesting that scratches around Rust's nose indicated that she did not stay still.

She added that Rust would have tried to pull off packaging tape over her mouth and push away someone who was possibly holding a napkin with a crocheted border, and then a green cloth, over her nose and mouth.

She would have tried to prise away the hands of the person who strangled her, the court heard.

Abrahams said that, during the struggle Rust's hyoid bone, left thyroid bone and right thyroid horn were fractured. These are all found in the neck area.

Fighting for her life

She might have lost consciousness but, as soon as pressure was released, she would have recovered and tried again to free herself from her assailant, the court heard.

Also testifying on Thursday was investigator Andrew van der Walt, who was contracted to Nedbank.

Judge Elize Steyn viewed footage from a pinhole camera at a Nedbank ATM opposite a police station in Wellington, and from an overhead camera.

A person resembling Nigel, who had been wearing an Adidas cap, was seen making several transactions and looking at a piece of paper.

The prosecution believes that the piece of paper bore Rust's bank pin numbers. Her Absa and Capitec cards were among the items stolen.

Rust's daughter, Helena Reid, testified briefly to confirm that two rings her mother used to wear had disappeared after she was killed.

However, the police found them and returned them to her.

The trial continues on Monday.

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