Death amid the vines


They were a handsome couple and seemed happy. He was a hardworking manager at a top wine estate. She was the popular head of administration at another well-known wine farm.

Then came the shock.

Chanel du Toit (28) was found dead in the bedroom of their cottage on Dieu Donné wine estate near Franschhoek. Eight days later her husband, Johan (26), was arrested and charged with the killing. Stunned friends and colleagues couldn’t believe it.

But now it’s whispered that the couple’s private lives may not have been what they seemed.

The night before Chanel died both attended a party and apparently had an argument. Someone close to the investigation revealed police are probing talk of extramarital affairs.

Cellphone records apparently show Johan made more calls to Chanel’s best friend than she did. And this friend acknowledges some inappropriate behaviour with Johan.

Some in the wine industry who knew the couple believe drugs may have been involved. A source says Chanel was a friend of a drug dealer – but as often happens when drama occurs in a small town everyone has an opinion with few underpinning facts.

The drama began early on Wednesday 7 July when Johan called his mother, Ronelle Kitshoff-Du Toit. He said he’d left on a hunting trip to Namaqualand at 2 am. In Vanrhynsdorp he twice tried to call Chanel but her cellphone was off, he told his mom, and asked her to go to their house.

About 8.15 am Ronelle found Chanel’s body. There were no signs of forced entry and the dog was locked up. Only Chanel’s rings and cellphone appeared to be missing but were later found in the house.

A farmworker commented that it was strange that neither the couple’s nor their neighbours’ dogs had barked. Police believe the murder was committed around midnight.

Johan du Toit has appeared in court and was released on R6 000 bail. He will appear again on 22 September.

Read the full article in the YOU of 29 July 2010

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