Pretoria – Hillary Gardee, the daughter of former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, made headlines after she went missing on April 29 in Nelspruit.
Days later, her body was found in a timber plantation outside Nelspruit on May 3.
Her body was found by timber plantation workers nearly 60km outside Mbombela with stab wounds, boot prints and a gunshot wound.
An autopsy revealed the 28-year-old was shot in the back of the head and stabbed multiple times.
On the day of her disappearance, she was last seen leaving a shopping complex in Nelspruit at about 5.30pm. She was with a 3-year-old girl she was planning to adopt.
After they were both missing for several hours, the child was returned home safely after she was found in a street in KamaGugu.
After Gardee’s body was found, it did not take long for police to track down the men who allegedly killed her.
On 7 and 8 May, Sipho Lawrence Mkhatshwa, Philemon Lukhele and Mduzuzi Gama were arrested and charged with murder, rape, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and possession of illegal firearms.
Mkhatshwa was arrested after consulting a sangoma from Nkomazi, Mpumalanga, for cleansing after Gardee’s murder.
Police sources claim Mkhatshwa allegedly told the sangoma that he had killed someone.
A senior police officer of Mpumalanga claims the sangoma said Mkhatshwa offered one of the albino children as payment for his cleansing, but the traditional healer refused.
The sangoma allegedly phoned the police after Mkhatshwa reportedly failed to pay him for the cleansing ceremony.
Following his arrest, Lukhele and Gama were arrested.
Lukhele allegedly claimed that Gardee was gang-raped and shot afterwards.
On 12 August, police arrested a fourth suspect, Hlabirwa Rasie Nkuna, for her murder.
Nkuna allgedly told police that he was acting alone when he killed Hillary.
He reportedly confessed to using his Facebook account to prey on unsuspecting women and luring them to their deaths, which are hallmarks of a serial killer.
Mkhatshwa and Lukhele applied for bail.
On 19 December, Mkhatshwa's hopes of getting bail ahead of Christmas Day were dashed for the second time.
Mkhatshwa was first denied bail in August, and in October he was granted leave to re-apply after his defence indicated that there were new facts to present for his new bail application.
However, Magistrate Eddie Hall ruled that Mkhatshwa failed to bring new facts to his case as he had claimed.
On the other hand, Lukhele's bail application was heard on 20 December.
A ruling is yet to be made on his application.
Meanwhile, Gama and Nkuna abandoned their bail application.
All four accused will be spending Christmas behind bars after Magistrate Hall postponed the case to 11 April 2023 and transferred it to the high court for trial.