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Durban brother and sister Hardus and Nicolette Lotter murdered their parents.
This was finding of the Durban High Court yesterday.
Mathew Naidoo, Nicolette’s boyfriend at the time, was also found guilty. The siblings claimed he was the mastermind behind the murder plot.
Judge Shyam Gyanda, sitting with two assessors, found the brother and sister were influenced by Naidoo, who told them he was the third son of God.
However, he said they still had the ability to differentiate between right and wrong.
Their parents – Maria Magdalena Lotter, 52, and Johannes Petrus “Johnny” Lotter, 53 – were murdered in their Durban home on July 19, 2008.
The trial has been adjourned to Monday to allow Nicolette to call her uncle, Rev Willem Lotter, to give evidence in mitigation of sentencing.
Rev Lotter, the brother of Nicolette’s father Johannes, attended court proceedings from time to time. He is a Dutch Reformed Church minister in Cape Town.
Moments after being found guilty, Naidoo denied planning or taking part in the murders.
Speaking to reporters from the dock during a break in proceedings, he said: “I just got found guilty today for murder. I have been found guilty. I accepted that, but I have not committed this crime.”
Judge Gyanda accepted that Naidoo was the mastermind behind the plot to murder the Lotter parents
Naidoo said after his conviction that he expected to be handed two life sentences when the court reconvened on Monday for sentencing.
Asked what sentences he thought the Lotter siblings would receive, he said: “To be honest with you, I don’t wish for anyone to be here. I don’t wish for anyone to be sentenced or to be found guilty of serious crimes. It’s not a good thing.
“I can’t wish evil on other people and not wish the same fate on myself. That would be very wrong. At the end of the day, I don’t understand why this crime was committed.
“I do feel for my ex-girlfriend and I do feel for my former friend.”
He still had to decide whether he would appeal his conviction. He had “nothing against this judge”, who found him to be a pathological liar.
“I have no grievance against anyone. They are doing their job. If the evidence before court, and what they can make sense of, is to view me as a pathological liar, why must I have any grievance against the opinion he has?”
Naidoo maintained his innocence and believed the media would twist every word he said and portray him as an evil person.
“I don’t want to go to hell. I’ve done nothing to go to hell in the first place. I know I am not an evil person. I know I have not killed anyone.
“I have not planned any murders, neither have I convinced anyone to do it,” said Naidoo.
Gyanda, in his finding, said it was abundantly clear from handwritten letters authored by Naidoo that he had portrayed himself as the third son of God.
The judge said the question had been asked many times during the trial about how it was possible for educated, sophisticated people in a middle-class, church-going family to allow themselves to be influenced.
He recalled that an expert witness, clinical psychologist Professor Lourens Schlebusch, told the court this sort of brainwashing was used to “remould” and “realign” religious people – doctors, lawyers, businessmen – to get them to do things considered stupid.
The judge said the Lotters’ belief in Naidoo’s powers was a mitigating circumstance, and might or might not have resulted in their having diminished criminal capacity.
“But it certainly did not exclude them from criminal liability.”
The judge said he believed the killings began when Johnny Lotter refused to accept Naidoo as a consort for his daughter.
Another turning point was when the parents had money stolen from their wallets and handbag, and the police were called in.
A quarrel between Mrs Lotter and Naidoo followed. The court heard that she had called him a “dark horse”.
The judge said Naidoo was trying to fleece the Lotters and access Nicolette’s inheritance.
Hardus, who had been instructed by Naidoo to commit suicide after the murder, was the fall guy, the judge said.
Naidoo was a glib character who fancied himself. He was arrogant and thought he could mislead lawyers.
Nicolette was fertile ground for his thought processes.
She was a troubled person who believed her domestic worker was practising witchcraft on her and was being “spiritually raped” by a tokoloshe (an evil spirit), and her hair was being ripped from her head.
She tried to get help, but unfortunately her parents did not believe she was being affected by black magic. They warned her pastor, to whom she wanted to turn for help, that she was seeking attention.
She eventually met Naidoo, and the spirit left her when they had sex. The judge said Naidoo clearly saw her vulnerability and the opportunity to take advantage of her.
Her brother was initially wary of Naidoo.
“In the same way his father did not accept him, but Naidoo later manipulated him, changed his attitude towards his parents and played on his emotions by saying that he, Naidoo, was a victim of apartheid and his own family fed him bad food.
“Eventually Hardus regarded Naidoo as the brother he did not have. He was fertile ground in which to plant ideas.”
Naidoo made the siblings believe that killing their parents would be a good thing as they were standing in the way of God’s work.
“We may think this is laughable and ridiculous, but we have expert testimony that thousands of people are conned by charismatic leaders into believing they have supernatural powers and can change the world.”
After Judge Gyanda found the trio guilty, pastor Danny Israel was called to give mitigating evidence for Hardus. He had been seeing Hardus on a religious basis for three-and-a-half years in Westville Prison.
The pastor was prepared to open his own home to rehabilitate and enable Hardus to continue his IT studies. He was prepared to teach underprivileged children.