Almost four years after his brother and sister-in-law were murdered, the Rev Willem Lotter issued a statement expressing relief that the trial was over.

“We have been on an extremely difficult and emotional journey for the past 44 months. The case was pending for so long and we had to wait until October 2011 for the trial to start in earnest. This time lapse made it very difficult for us to come to terms with a very sad and tragic event in our lives. The huge public interest made it all the more difficult to find comfort and closure,” he said.

“We are satisfied that the court proceedings produced the truth that we were longing for. (Clinical psychologist) Professor Lourens Schlebusch’s evidence helped us a great deal to understand how this incident came about.

“We are exhausted and emotionally drained because of the gruesome details of the event that were repeated at every hearing.

“From the onset, we trusted God for the truth to be revealed and justice to take its course to help us get closure. We are glad that the truth now enables us to take on the long walk to reconciliation.

“We finally can close the matter and carry on with our lives. We are realistic that closure will not happen overnight. The process of healing and reconciliation has only just begun.

“Each individual family member must come to terms with what happened and carry on with their lives,” he said.

Earlier, Lotter told the court that Johan and Riekie Lotter would have wanted him to ask the court to show leniency towards their children.

Taking the stand in mitigation of sentence on behalf of his niece, Nicolette, Lotter – a pastor at Omega Church in Cape Town and a minister for 25 years – told her and Hardus that he forgave them.

“On behalf of your parents, I know they would have stood in court and argued for you in mitigation of sentence.”

He repeated Johan and Riekie’s last words to their children. Riekie said, “I love you, my children”, and Johan, pleading for his life, said to Hardus: “My son, we can work this out.”

In the Durban High Court last week, Judge Shyam Gyanda convicted Nicolette, Hardus and Mathew Naidoo of the murders.

Lotter asked the siblings to stand up and take responsibility for their conduct and stop shifting the blame.

“Forgive yourselves and those who condemn you still,” he said to Hardus and Nicolette.

He also asked the siblings for forgiveness.

“Today I am committed to forgive you. We still love you. We hate what you did to your parents and our loved ones.

“We all sin in words and attitude every day. I confess I battled in reconciling with you. I ask forgiveness from you today.”

The saddest and most traumatic thing, Lotter said, was that Johan and Riekie had been betrayed from within.

He said the couple had hired a private investigator from Germany and installed security cameras when they had received death threats.

“Cameras were set up to detect danger from outside, but danger was from within. That’s the most tragic part for me.”