“How well do we know the accused, why should he be released?”
Northern Cape High Court Judge President Frans Kgomo posed this question to the court before refusing to allow the 17-year-old convicted murderer to remain out on bail until sentencing.
The prosecution presented a recent Whatsapp profile photograph of the accused posing with a gun, in objection to the defence’s application.
Kgomo was horrified that the accused had access to a firearm following the murders.
“The photos shock me. Even if he had not inflicted the injuries, he showed no sympathy for what happened to Marthella.’
He added that the accused never admitted to the killings and lacked remorse for his actions.
Legal representative for the accused, Riaan Bode, highlighted the young age of the accused and the urgency in beginning his academic programme.
“It is in the best interests of the child to be released into the care of his guardian, who is willing to pay bail of R50 000 and is happy to comply with any bail conditions.”
The guardian, Bennie Heckroodt stated that, in his eyes, the boy was innocent.
“I am trying to keep him positive and I am positive and I will do anything possible to keep his spirits up and look after his well-being.”
He indicated that the accused was allowed to make use of a firearm under his supervision, while all his firearms and hunting rifles were securely locked up in a safe.
“Our children grew up with firearms and it is also used on farms for protection purposes. I am completely comfortable when the accused handles a firearm but it is understandable if someone else is not. I am a grandfather and will not take any chances when it comes to safety. The firearms are available but no one is allowed access unless they have permission from myself, my wife or eldest son.”
He described the teenager as “a pleasure to have around” and a hard worker who helped out on the farm.
“I have never regretted taking him under my roof. He is part of the family and is obedient and hardworking.”
Due to the added pressure of the trial, the accused intends taking two years to complete his matric and wishes to further his studies at a tertiary institution.
Heckroodt explained that they had not foreseen the extra responsibility of home schooling that was being done through Grey College in Bloemfontein.
“The study material is not sent regularly, resulting in the accused being behind in the syllabus and this puts extra pressure on him. We took him for extra classes in Kimberley. He is also receiving counselling from a psychologist in Kimberley while horse riding remains one of his therapies.”
He was of the opinion that great strides could be made in his academic studies in the six weeks until the trial resumes.
He added that while it was “not pleasant” at the Galeshewe Police Station where the accused was incarcerated when he was first arrested in 2012, he could not complain about the conditions in the holding cells.
Private tutor, Andre Kleingeld, from Panorama High School in Jacobsdal, added that accused was well mannered and was highly intelligent.
“He was achieving above average marks but we have not been able to progress much because of the trial. We are working out a study timetable around the court schedule and he will be ready by the end of the year.”
He said the accused was registered as a private candidate for the National Senior Certificate examinations as Grey College required Grade 12 learners to attend classes on a full-time basis as well as hand in projects and work assignments.
State advocate Hannes Cloete warned that the accused could potentially face a 25-year sentence, based on the seriousness of the crimes.
“Marthella, who was raped and murdered, was younger than 16 when she was killed. The fact that he (the accused) is a child, cannot be considered as an exceptional circumstance. All we know of the accused is that he eliminated an entire family. The manner in which the murders were committed does not paint a very wholesome character. It cannot be in the interests of justice to release him on bail, especially if he still has access to firearms.”
He found it unacceptable for the accused to be handling a large calibre weapon in the face of a potentially heavy sentence.
“He cannot continue with his life for the next six weeks as if nothing has happened. The police cannot confiscate the weapons from his guardian nor can the police patrol his residence on a regular basis.”
Cloete said that the Kimberley Correctional Centre made provision for youth detainees, who were kept separate from convicted detainees in their respective age groups to prevent victimisation.
“There are facilities for those who wish to study privately and write exams.”
The case will resume again from May 13 to allow for the compilation of pre-sentencing reports, including a psychologists report, a victim impact study and assessments from a Correctional Services official.
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