Pongola - She was a philanthropist who left her native Netherlands to start a home for orphans of Aids in rural Zululand.
But the widow, who had named the home after her late husband, was brutally murdered, and her body thrown into a ravine.
On Thursday two men were convicted of murdering Dutch missionary Riet Vuyk, 66, in March 2012 at Ubombo, a small town south of Pongola, in far northern KwaZulu-Natal.
High Court Judge van Zyl, sitting in Mtubatuba, sentenced Leonard Gina, 45, and Sandile Ngwenya, 23, to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for robbery, five years for kidnapping and 15 years for possession of an unlicensed firearm.
After the trial had dragged on for almost two years, the two men recently made an about-turn and pleaded guilty.
This was after a third accused turned State witness. Charges against Thokozani Mabika, 30, were withdrawn.
In court, the accuseds’ legal representatives read out their statements, which described how Gina, who was a driver for the home, claimed that Vuyk owned him money.
The three men had accosted the woman at her Jan Vuyk Children’s Home. They ordered her to lie on the bed and tied her wrists and ankles, demanding money.
They searched the home for money but found none. They loaded property, including a laptop, printer and machinery, into her bakkie. Vuyk, still bound, was also forced into the vehicle.
The court heard that they drove to an isolated spot in the Ubombo mountains. Gina ordered Ngwenya – who was carrying a gun given to him by Gina – to shoot Vuyk, but he was unable to do it. In the end, Gina attacked the missionary with a hammer, inflicting fatal head injuries.
They then threw her body from the Ubombo Mountains into a ravine.
Judge van Zyl found that Gina had led Ngwenya and Mabika on the crime spree. He said Gina “clearly had the intention to kill the deceased, and succeeded”.
Ngwenya, while unable to carry out the act, had not stopped Gina from killing the missionary.
At the conclusion of the case on Thursday, both accused indicated that they wanted to appeal against the sentences, but leave to appeal was denied by the judge.
The case had been investigated by the Richards Bay Organised Crime Unit. Speaking after the conclusion of the trial, Captain Bonginkosi Ncube said he was satisfied with the outcome.
The police thought Mabika had played a minor role in the crime.
The first breakthrough had come when Vuyk’s abandoned bakkie was found along the road at Mtubatuba a few days after she disappeared.
Investigation led to Ngwenya’s arrest, and he had led them to her body.