Johannesburg - They were two people who lived their lives to the fullest. Gary Smith was always the life of the party, while his sister, Karen Buchanan, loved to dance and entertain.
This is how Smith’s widow, Lynette* remembers her husband and sister-in-law. “Everybody who knew Gary found him funny and loved him. He was Scottish. He had a very big sense of humour and made people laugh.
“The kids and I still sit here and laugh at the things we did together,” she said, sobbing. “He enjoyed parties and people. They would never hurt a fly… We’re just very relieved the two went together. They were extremely close. One wouldn’t have survived without the other.”
The siblings were brutally slain in Buchanan’s fiancé’s Northcliff home in March 2008. Their horrific torture at the hands of their killers – both were bound and gagged, had their teeth pulled and darts thrown at them – shocked their family, and rocked this upmarket community.
But for almost five years, there was little word on the investigation. Lynette had all but given up hope for justice – until the police contacted her two weeks ago, informing her that they had arrested Kenneth Schroder and Paul Mundel in Durban and Mbombela after a five-year investigation.
“I’m happy there have been arrests,” she said. “I kept trying to get information and kept coming to a dead end. I thought they had been forgotten.”
It haunts her that her children were supposed to visit Smith, 46, who was living with his 44-year-old sister, a choreographer, when they were killed. “The kids were supposed to be there – they were there just about every weekend.”
Hours before his death, Gary phoned his daughter. “He told her he loved her and would see her the next weekend for Easter.”
The number 14 chills her. “Gary was born on June 14. He was murdered at 14 Botha Avenue on the 14th of March. And he was buried on my daughter’s birthday.”
And now it has now emerged that Schroder is a relative of Buchanan’s fiancé.
On Friday both Mundel and Schroder sat in the dock at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court to apply for bail. Both face murder and robbery charges.
But neither the state nor the defence was ready to proceed with the bail application. This is scheduled for Monday.
Smith, a restaurant manager, had been living with his sister for three weeks after returning from a stint in Kimberley. According to residents, a car was heard hooting outside the house at about 8pm that Friday night. The car was let inside, and later at 10pm, neighbours heard gunshots and screams and a silver Pajero sped off.
The bodies of the siblings were found inside the house. Buchanan’s hands and feet were bound, her clothes stripped off. Darts had been thrown at Smith’s body. Buchanan was shot in the back of the head while her brother was shot in the mouth with a wound that tore apart his face. The police found their cellphones were smashed, a TV was missing and the safe broken open.
Schroder and Mundel are believed to have been friends of the siblings and visited the house regularly.
But Lynette revealed Smith and Buchanan were “terrified” of Mundel and Schroder.
Lynette and Smith had been separated for two years before the murders.
“We decided to go our separate ways. We remained very good friends and Gary was always there for my children.
“He was a very good father. My kids are so devastated. My eldest daughter found out a week after the murders that she was pregnant.”
Depressed over the deaths of her children Smith’s mother set about starving herself to death.
“This was a woman who spoke to her kids every day of her life.
“My father-in-law has remarried and lives in Greece. He still doesn’t know about the torture. We kept it away from him.”
“People loved Karen,” she added. “The hardest thing for her daughter, who is 28 now, is that she and her mom celebrated their birthdays on the same day – February 20.
“They used to have big parties together. Now she will have to have her party alone for the rest of her life.”