PICTURE SUPPLIED CAPTION: Happier times: the complete Schutte family a year ago...from left... Gerlind, Angela, Ekard, Elizabeth, Matthias, Lutz and Stefan Schutte.

Durban -

The elderly Richmond couple and their son who were murdered then doused with petrol and set alight were killed so they would not identify their attackers, whose motive was robbery.

Details of their deaths emerged on Tuesday when three men pleaded guilty in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

Zamokuhle Maduna, 19, Siphesihle Ngubane, 20, and a 17-year-old were convicted for the murders of Ekard Schutte, 76; his wife, Elizabeth, 66; and their son Lutz, 33, at Springfield Farm on March 1. They were also found guilty of aggravated robbery and contravening the Firearms Control Act.

In their plea, the killers said Maduna, who worked for Schutte sr at his sawmill business on the farm, came up with the idea to rob his boss. He believed there was money on the property.

The day before the murders, he approached Ngubane and the teenager to assist him.

Maduna bought petrol to burn the farmhouse and destroy evidence.

Maduna went to Schutte’s farmhouse and pretended he wanted to buy wood. Schutte led them to the shed where it was kept.

“Accused 3 (the minor) grabbed the deceased. He struggled to free himself and I and accused 2 (Ngubane) stabbed him,” confessed Maduna.

Maduna said he looked through the kitchen window for Elizabeth’s Mahindra vehicle and when he saw that it was not there he knew she was out. They found the safe, but it was locked so they waited for Elizabeth to return to make her open it.

She arrived with her son Lutz, who lived in Germany and had been fetched from the airport by his mother to celebrate his father’s birthday, which was the next day.

Ngubane grabbed the woman while the teenager grabbed the son and killed them.

All three men said they were sorry and hoped the Schutte family would accept their apologies.

Sentencing was adjourned to April 22 so a probation officer’s report could be compiled.

None of the Schutte family or friends were in court. Contacted afterwards, family spokeswoman Karen Lowe said it was too painful to attend court.

She said the couple’s remaining children, Stefan, who found the bodies, Matthias and two daughters – Gerlind Fouche and Angela Geldenhuys – were still coming to terms with the deaths.

“Everything is still so raw. The focus now is on trauma counselling and the family unit.”

Farm attacks have become serious in the province, with the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison, Willies Mchunu, this week condemning attacks.

“I am disturbed at this trend of attacks on mostly senior farm owners. These have an effect of painting a negative picture for the province as an investment destination. It also threatens food security.

“I urge all people in KZN, particularly the farming community, to work with the police,” said Mchunu.

On Friday, Ixopo farmers Cheryl and Dave Biggs were attacked but survived.

Koos Marais from the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union (Kwanalu) said that this year there had been nine confirmed farm attacks, plus the Richmond murders.

Last year, there were 10 murders and 47 attacks.

He added that the attacks were not racially or politically motivated, but crime-related.

The Mercury