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The Pretoria High Court heard on Tuesday how retired scientist Bill van der Riet was found dead in his Garsfontein home with his pants pulled down, his hands bound behind his back and a dishcloth around his neck.
His alleged killer, Abel Ntizane Magopa, 28, of Dennilton, pleaded not guilty to murder and a charge of robbing 61-year-old Van der Riet on May 30, 2007. The accused was linked to the crime scene by fingerprints on a newspaper and a flyer found next to Van der Riet’s body.
Judge Cynthia Pretorius was told that the police analysed the fingerprints found and came up with Magopa’s profile. An informant led the police to where he lived. His fingerprints taken during his arrest matched those found on the newspaper and flyer.
Van der Riet, who lived alone, was strangled to death.
Although his gardener, one Daniel, called a member of the community policing forum (CPF) when he discovered the house was locked when he reported for duty, the court was told that he disappeared immediately afterwards.
Judge Pretorius was also told that Van der Riet’s domestic worker, one Lettie, also disappeared after the incident. Neither could be traced.
A member of the CPF, Johannes Coetzee, testified that he, together with another CPF member, were first at the scene after the gardener came to his house to alert him that something was wrong at the Van der Riet home.
Coetzee said all the doors and windows were locked.
He and the other CPF member broke a window and gained entry to the house, where they found everything in disarray. They found Van der Riet lying on his stomach. His hands were bound behind his back and his pants were pulled down. The man’s exposed bottom was extremely bruised. He also had a cloth wound around his neck.
Warrant Officer Wayne Cronje testified that the floor around the body was scattered with newspapers. He was later given a set of fingerprints retrieved from the newspapers and armed with this, he eventually arrested the accused.
Magopa testified that he had never met or seen Van der Riet, nor did he know the gardener or the domestic worker. Asked how his fingerprints came to be on the newspaper and a flyer – one inside the house and another outside – Magopa explained that he worked as a car guard at a mall in The Willows at the time.
He often helped to carry goods and pack them into cars. He said he must have touched the flyer in that manner. Magopa said: “I am a man who likes to read newspapers,” and he often asked people at the mall to bring him a newspaper.