Judge tears into 'arrogant' Waterkloof four
The Waterkloof four are guilty of committing "an extremely cruel" murder.
This was the verdict on Tuesday of Pretoria regional court magistrate Len Kotze, who called Christoff Becker a "self-confessed liar". He dismissed Becker's evidence as lies and referred to the 19-year-old's "astounding arrogance".
A shocked silence followed Kotze's verdict of guilty of murder and yet another guilty verdict on an assault count.
The four - Becker, Frikkie du Preez, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt (the last three all 18 years of age) - sat stony-faced while listening to the verdict.
Their parents, friends and family members in the gallery could be heard gasping in horror as Kotze gave reasons for his verdict. A short break followed the findings, and friends and family rushed to the dock to embrace the accused.
While most of the family members held back tears, several of their friends cried.
From the outset of the trial, the accused have exuded confidence bordering on arrogance.
However, it was a different story on Tuesday. Their confidence clearly ebbed away with each word uttered by the magistrate.
The four, who have always dressed in the latest fashion, got a glimpse of life behind bars when they had to spend the lunch break in the holding cells. They appeared solemn after returning to court.
They were freed on bail later in the afternoon, after Kotze referred the matter to the High Court for sentencing.
He said the four could face life imprisonment and the regional court did not have the jurisdiction to sentence them.
He agreed to extend their bail, but increased it from R2 000 to R10 000.
The state opposed the extension of their bail, saying it was a racially inspired murder which had caused much public outcry.
In extending their bail, Kotze said he agreed that this was a racial incident which inflamed the emotions of the community.
"This was a terribly cruel and cowardly murder which you committed. It is with hesitation that I extend your bail," he told them.
As part of their bail conditions, the four may not leave the magisterial district or visit any nightclub or place of entertainment.
The defence pointed out that it may take more than a year before they will be sentenced, as the High Court's roll was congested.
Kotze referred to this and said the four were still young.
It could be to their prejudice if they had to stay in custody for such a long time.
The court found that the unidentified black man they assaulted in the early hours of December 1 2003 in Moreleta Park was the same person found dead by the police.
Kotze found that the four kicked, stabbed and beat the man. They were found guilty on the doctrine of common purpose to commit murder.
Kotze said they severely assaulted the man and that even the dumbest person would have foreseen that he could have died of his injuries.
The four denied guilt on a charge of murder and another charge of assault. Regarding the murder, Becker, who was the only one of the accused to testify, said they had seen black people entering the park that night and thought they were burglars.
Becker and his co-accused were 16 at the time and still at school. He said the police came to their school prior to the incident and asked pupils to assist them in curbing crime. Becker said their aim that evening was to help the police and to arrest the man.
Kotze said Becker and his friends never intended calling the police, because they knew they would be in deep trouble if they did.
That evening, Becker and one of his friends had taken their fathers' cars to go to a party. They later ended up in a Hatfield nightclub before committing the crimes on their way home.
The foursome earlier denied that they assaulted another unidentified man in Constantia Park, because their cellphone record showed that only 14 minutes expired from their leaving Hatfield until they got to the murder scene in Moreleta Park. The defence argued that this was too little time in which to assault someone and to drive on to the park.
But Kotze found it was possible because the roads were empty at that time of night. He also found that Becker, who was driving his father's BMW, drove extremely fast.
The case was postponed to November 18 for a High Court date. Defence advocate Jaap Cilliers indicated after sentencing that they would take the verdict on appeal.