Monster or misunderstood? This is one of the questions that will hopefully be answered in the Pretoria High Court as the trial of Johan Kotze – the man nicknamed the Modimolle monster – starts on Monday.
Grim details emerged in the Modimolle Magistrate’s Court earlier this year on how Kotze, 50, allegedly orchestrated the gang-rape and torture of his ex-wife Ina Bonnette, as well as the killing of her son, Conrad, 20.
A computer science student at the University of Pretoria, Conrad was described as a top student and always cheerful.
Kotze’s first court appearance on January 13 drew hundreds of placard-waving protesters, including women from the ANC Women’s League and farmers in the area, baying for his blood.
He was denied bail.
Kotze, who appeared emotionless during all court proceedings, was sent for psychiatric evaluation and found fit to stand trial.
On Monday, he will appear before a high court judge with his three co-accused, Andries Sithole, 42, Pieta Mampuru Mohlane, 33, and Sello Frans Mphaka, 29, whom he allegedly held at gunpoint in January while they tortured and raped Bonnette.
Kotze allegedly hired the trio to remove palm trees from his front garden, and then forced them to rape and mutilate Bonnette.
According to evidence presented in court, Bonnette arrived at the couple’s former home and all four pinned her to the bed. The trio then allegedly assisted Kotze in torturing her by trying to smother her with a towel and placing tape around her mouth and nose.
They allegedly slapped and punched her, breaking two of her toes, and knocked nails into her breasts. It is also said Kotze made Conrad beg for his life, forcing her to listen to her own child pleading not to be killed, before he was executed with a single gunshot to the back of the head.
A massive manhunt ensued after the horrific attack and murder and police across the country were on the lookout for Kotze.
A few days after the attack the nationwide search was extended to southern Africa, and Interpol was roped in to help as Kotze carried Namibian and South African passports.
Eight days after the murder, Kotze was arrested in the veld, less than a kilometre from his home, living in a camouflaged hideout.
Blankets, clothes, newspaper clippings of his alleged crimes, money and a gas bottle he had used for cooking were found at the scene.
His co-accused were arrested near Hammanskraal days later.
During earlier court proceedings, cellphone records showed Kotze and at least one of his co-accused planned the alleged crimes against Bonnette as well as the murder, as they had been in contact with each other 22 times since last December.
Kotze and his co-accused face 17 charges, which include rape, conspiracy to murder, murder and kidnapping.
The trial has been scheduled to run for the next two weeks.