Boy's heartbreaking letter to slain uncle

By Karyn Maughan Time of article published Mar 16, 2004

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A heartbreaking letter to Sizzlers victim Gregory Berghaus from his nine-year-old nephew took centre stage in the Cape High Court on Monday.

In the letter, the boy tells his slain uncle: "I am crying here. Why can't you speak to me? I am very scared."

Parts of the letter were read by Gregory's mother Fay in aggravation of the sentencing of convicted Sizzlers killers Adam Woest and Trevor Theys on Monday - as the two men's defence advocates attempted to persuade the court not to sentence their clients to life sentences.

Woest and Theys were convicted last week on all charges related to the murder, torture and robbery of Sizzlers owner Aubrey "Eric" Otgaar, masseurs Sergio de Castro, Stephanus Fouché, Marius Meyer, Johan Meyer, Warren Visser and Travis Reade and client Berghaus, as well as the attempted murder of the sole survivor of the massacre, Quinton Taylor.

Sentencing was set to be handed down at noon on Tuesday.

Fay Berghaus told the court she could not forgive the men responsible for her son's death and would mourn Gregory "for the rest of my days".

"I have tried to place myself in the victims' position: how much they suffered, how no mercy was shown to them.

"If I had 20 children and one was killed, I know I would still feel the same sense of loss."

Berghaus told the court she had been "haunted" by the thought of Woest or Theys getting off on a technicality or being pardoned under a blanket amnesty.

Both Woest's counsel Mornay Calitz and Theys's advocate Nehemiah Ballem produced psychological evidence in mitigation of their clients' sentences - with Ballem also calling on Theys's family friend Ashura Abdullah and his sister to testify.

Theys's eyes welled with tears as his sister, who did not want to be identified for fear of victimisation, told the court her brother was a "helpful and loving person" who believed people should not fight in front of children.

She told the court that Theys would often tell his family: "Life is short, God put us on earth for a reason, love one another and try not to have enemies."

Abdullah, who testified that she had known Theys for 25 years, said the former taxi driver often spoke about "the gays and prostitutes" he transported between clubs in the Sea Point area. "He seemed very fond of them."

Questioned by Ballem, Valkenberg psychiatrist Dr Larissa Panieri-Peter said there was no evidence of abuse or violence in Theys's past and added that she was "unable to elicit any homophobic tendencies" in his interview responses.

When Ballem asked her if Theys's break-up with his 20-year-old girlfriend might have triggered his involvement in the killings, Panieri-Peter said she thought not.

Calitz called no witnesses in mitigation of Woest's sentence, but handed in a pre-sentencing report from state-appointed psychiatrist Dr Ashraf Jedaar.

In the report, and in response to the suggested homophobic nature of the killings, Jedaar points out that Woest's younger brother Dirk is homosexual and adds that "there does not appear to be any hostility between them in this regard".

He had no history of aggressive behaviour.

According to the report, Woest suffered playschool "adjustment difficulties". He was later identified as a dyslexic and allegedly suffered bullying at school.

Jedaar said Woest had "expressed his remorse appropriately", finding it "difficult to reconcile his behaviour on that fateful night and the pain and suffering he has inflicted on his victims".

State advocate Anthony Stephen also called the surgeon who treated Quinton Taylor to testify.

Maxillo-facial surgeon Dr Sonil Aniruth said Taylor was "lucky" to survive.

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