Cape Town -
It is inconceivable that Johannes Christiaan de Jager could plead guilty to dismembering the corpse of 16-year-old Charmaine Mare and not have murdered the teenager, says the Western Cape High Court judge who found him guilty of her murder.
Acting Judge Chuma Cossie found that De Jager, 49, intended to kill Charmaine – evident from his efforts to burn the body and conceal the evidence.
“The court was satisfied that that the State succeeded in proving guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt in the case of murder,” she said on Tuesday.
Regarding the charges of violating a corpse, Acting Judge Cossie said: “It is inconceivable as to how the accused can plead guilty to this and not to murder.”
For Charmaine’s death, he was found guilty of murder and two counts of violating a corpse and of theft – for stealing her cellphone.
Earlier in the day, he was also convicted of raping and strangling 18-year-old Cape Town prostitute Hiltina Alexander, who was found dead in May 2008.
De Jager had initially denied having anything to do with Hiltina other than picking her up one night in May 2008 for a stranger.
He claimed he last saw her when she went to bed with the stranger.
But the court rejected De Jager’s version of events, finding that he could not give police a description of the stranger and he could not identify the flat where he had last seen her.
Acting Judge Cossie found him guilty of two counts of rape and of murdering Hiltina.
Charmaine was introduced to De Jager when the Mpumalanga teenager came to stay with her friend Kristen White. Kristen lived with her mother, Carol White, who was De Jager’s girlfriend, and De Jager’s son Nick.
Charmaine had been left alone with De Jager while the family had gone on a pre-planned cruise, from January 7 to 11 last year.
When the family returned, Charmaine was missing. The family then went to the police.
De Jager claimed that Charmaine died in an accidental fall in his bathroom, and that in a panicked and shocked state he had dismembered her body and set her torso alight.
The State argued that he had fabricated the story of the stranger and lied to the court, and accused him of raping Charmaine and strangling her to prevent her from telling anyone.
Prosecutor Romay van Rooyen claimed that De Jager had tried to destroy forensic evidence.
A pathologist’s report said Charmaine had no fatal head injuries and her death was due to an unknown unnatural cause.
De Jager initially stored her body in a drain on his property but decided to remove it.
A few days later, Charmaine’s torso was found on an open field. Her lower legs and arms were found in separate locations and were in a state of decomposition, but not burnt.
Acting Judge Cossie said De Jager had no regard for the young girl’s body as during his testimony he referred to her body as “it”.
“He showed no respect for the deceased even after her death,” she said, adding that his actions were inconsistent with those of an honest person.
“The explanation that was given to the court as to why he set the body alight was that he wanted to get rid of the body. That is very gruesome, to say the least, for a person who had no intention to kill anyone.”
Sentencing proceedings were provisionally set down for May 5, to determine availability of defence counsel.
On Tuesday, Carol and Kristen White also attended proceedings. They sat in court alongside friends of Charmaine’s family.
Ellen du Toit and Hester “Hanti” Venter said they had raised Charmaine from the age of 3 to 10 in Kriel, Mpumalanga.
They cried as they spoke of their relief that the case was finally over. The pair had taken a bus from Kriel to attend the judgment.
Du Toit was satisfied with the judgments. “I’m relieved it’s finally over… may he have a very hard life in prison,” she said.