Cape Town magistrate’s nephew sentenced to 20 years for her murder

Cassidy Hartzenberg will spend 20 years in jail for murdering his magistrate aunt. File Picture: Rafieka Williams / Independent Newspapers

Cassidy Hartzenberg will spend 20 years in jail for murdering his magistrate aunt. File Picture: Rafieka Williams / Independent Newspapers

Published Mar 1, 2024


The nephew of a Cape Town magistrate who was murdered in her home in Marina Da Gama has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by the Western Cape High Court on Friday.

Cassidy Hartzenberg, 20, the nephew of Magistrate Romay van Rooyen was convicted on charges of his aunt’s murder and theft.

Van Rooyen, 50, was found murdered in her home in Red Roman Street, Marina Da Gama, on September 10, 2022, by her sister, after she failed to respond to phone calls.

The close-knit family knew something was wrong when calls went unanswered and they visited her home.

Magistrate Romay van Rooyen. Picture: Facebook

Her car, a Toyota RAV4, had been stolen and was found in Mitchells Plain two days later.

Her murder sent shock waves through the judiciary.

Van Rooyen started her career as a prosecutor in 1997, prosecuting in the district and regional courts before becoming a State advocate in the Western Cape High Court.

She became an acting magistrate in 2016 and presided at various magistrate’s courts in the Western Cape. From October 1, 2021, she was permanently appointed as an additional magistrate for the Vredenburg Magistrate’s Court.

Magistrate Romay van Rooyen's house in Marina Da Gama. File Picture: Phando Jikelo / Independent Newspapers

It is the State’s case that Van Rooyen returned home for the weekend as she usually did, when she was killed.

On Friday, Hartzenberg finalised his plea and sentencing agreement with the State.

State Prosecutor advocate Phumzo Zantsi asked the court to impose a sentence that was more than the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years, due to the seriousness of the offences Hartzenberg committed.

The court heard how Van Rooyen was murdered during the early evening on September 9, 2022.

Cassidy Hartzenberg sitting among his family in the front row of his aunt Magistrate Romay van Rooyen’s funeral after he murdered her. File Picture: Leon Lestrade / Independent Newspapers

At her funeral, Hartzenberg mourned her death like the rest of the family. He was a pall-bearer and images of him in tears and crying across his aunt’s coffin were captured by the media.

After the funeral, he was identified as the main suspect.

It was alleged at the time that he was using drugs and he killed his aunt for money to buy drugs.

However, his motive for killing his aunt was revealed during his confession.

Hartzenberg confirmed he had a good relationship with his aunt and she supported him and his family financially and emotionally.

On the day of the murder, Hartzenberg said he went to visit his aunt and seek financial assistance for a job application. They were seated in the lounge when he asked her and she refused. She got up and went to her bedroom. He followed Van Rooyen and as he entered her bedroom her back was showing towards him. He put his hands around her neck and strangled her.

Hartzenberg said she resisted and fought for her life, but he said he could not stop nor could he control his anger.

He described how Van Rooyen fell to the ground and was no longer breathing. He ran to get her cell phone in the lounge to call for help, but her phone had a pin-lock. He didn’t have a phone, and out of anger, he threw her phone on the kitchen floor. It broke. Hartzenberg said he stayed with the body until the early hours of the next morning and took Van Rooyen’s vehicle, drove to Westgate Mall in Mitchells Plain and later abandoned it along Jakes Gerwel Drive in the same area.

He admitted that he knew that what he was doing was wrong and illegal.

Advocate Zantsi submitted to the court that Van Rooyen was a contributing member of society as she was a magistrate.

“There is a public outcry against the high levels of serious and violent crimes against women in South Africa. Gender-based violence is a scourge facing our society. Through the sentence imposed supra, the accused has been made aware of how serious the courts view offences against vulnerable members of society. Evident through his past conduct is his innate disrespect for women and ability to use physical force.

“The court sentenced Hartzenberg to 20 years direct imprisonment for the murder and six years imprisonment for the theft of her vehicle. It ordered the sentences to run concurrently, leaving him with an effective 20-year direct imprisonment sentence,” said Western Cape spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Eric Ntabazalila.

Director of Public Prosecutions, advocate Nicolette Bell welcomed the sentence handed down by the court.

She said it was a sad day Van Rooyen’s own nephew was the one sentenced for her murder.

“It was sad that Van Rooyen fell victim to a crime she fought against – crimes against women and children – where she ensured that victims received justice and that perpetrators were sent to prison. This is a reality that this type of crime affects all of us and we need to put our efforts together to stop it,” Bell said.

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