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Cape Town - One of the men accused of killing night club owner Bruno Bronn, Frederick Willem John Coetzer, battled tears on Monday, as he told the Western Cape High Court of Bronn's trust in him.
Bronn, owner of gay night club The Bronx in the city's CBD, was strangled in his Sea Point home on Monday night, February 6, 2012.
Prosecutor Carine Teunissen alleges that Coetzer, co-accused Fareez Allie, and Achmat Toffa attacked Bronn in his home, and that Coetzer, Bronn's “right hand man”, had a key to Bronn's home.
A fourth accused, Kurt Erispe, turned State witness, and will be indemnified against prosecution if the court rules, at the end of the trial, that his testimony was satisfactory in all respects.
Coetzer, Allie and Toffa have pleaded not guilty before Judge President John Hlophe and assessor Jaco van Reenen, a retired chief magistrate, to charges of premeditated murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Erispe worked as an inspector in his mother's security firm, and on the night in question was supposed to visit various sites to ensure that security guards were at their posts and not sleeping.
Instead, Erispe drove Coetzer, Allie and Toffa around in the company car and during the evening dropped Coetzer off at the Bronn home.
Coetzer said Bronn answered his knock on the door, and once inside they discussed a problem that Bronn was having involving traveller's cheques.
He noticed on Bronn's surveillance monitor that Erispe's car had stopped in front of the house.
Coetzer and Bronn walked to an outside guest room, when Allie suddenly appeared and passed a small firearm to Coetzer with the words, “Keep him here and keep him quiet”.
Coetzer said Bronn saw the firearm, and started to panic.
“I told Bruno not to worry, to trust me, and that I would not harm him. I tried to remove the bullets from the gun to prove to him that I would not harm him,” he said.
“Bruno tried to push pass me, and I grabbed him to stop him because I knew we would be harmed if he went back into the house. The bullets fell to the ground, and Bruno started to wrestle and fell against a chair.”
Coetzer said he threw Bronn to the ground and put his arm around his neck to calm him.
“I told Bruno to scream for help, so that someone might hear and call the police. Bruno did so, and Allie came running out of the house to us and told me to go inside and to give him my belt,” he told the court.
“In the house, I saw Toffa filing bags with items from Bronn's home.”
Coetzer said he tried to get away in Bronn's car, but Toffa told him to take the bags with him.
Questioned by his lawyer Patrick Scott, Coetzer told the court he tried to stay calm as he drove away in Bronn's BMW.
Scott asked him if it was part of the plan for him to drive away in Bronn's car after the incident.
Coetzer said, “No, it was not even in our plans to attack Bruno at all that night”.
Asked if there had been any plan that night to rob Bronn, he replied: “No, I didn't need to rob him. On one occasion, when I needed money, I borrowed from him and repaid the loan. I had no need to rob him.”
Coetzer was asked how he injured himself at Bronn's home on the night in question.
“My injury happened when Bruno stumbled as we struggled, and we landed on the floor wrestling. I remember glass breaking, but don't know if it was a vase or what it was,” he said.
Coetzer was shown a police photograph of the room in which the struggle had taken place.
He pointed out certain objects in the room, including a carton containing narcotic drugs.
He said Bronn had smoked dagga and the drug known as cat (methcathinone), and people told him that Bronn had also smoked tik (methamphetamine).
Coetzer said he thought that Bronn was still alive when he left Bronn's home in Bronn's car.
Coetzer said he drove to Toffa's home in Brooklyn and, after parking, tried to phone and send sms messages to Bronn.
Asked why, he battled tears and said: “I wanted to tell him not to worry, and that I will be back soon with his car and everything will be okay. He always trusted me a lot.”
The trial continues on Tuesday.