By Kanina Foss

Morne Harmse, 19, was not under the influence of the devil when he took a ninja sword to school and slashed the throat of a fellow pupil.

Yesterday, an occult specialist and former head of the police's disbanded occult-related crimes unit, Dr Kobus Jonker, testified that although Harmse had been experimenting with Satanism and witchcraft, his involvement in such practices was superficial.

Harmse donned a mask similar to that worn by a member of the heavy-metal band Slipknot and went on the rampage with a ninja sword at Nic Diederichs Technical High School in Krugersdorp last year, killing 16-year-old Jacques Pretorius and wounding three others. He confessed to the murder and three charges of attempted murder.

Harmse will hear next week whether he will be sentenced to life imprisonment for his crimes.

Testifying yesterday, Jonker said certain items and rituals typically present in a Satanic murder were absent in Harmse's case.

For example, the bedding and curtains in Harmse's bedroom were coloured, whereas a practising Satanist would have had only black or red. There were also no blood smears or animal parts found in his bedroom.

Also, Jonker said, candle wax found on the ouija board under his bed was white, pink and yellow, whereas a Satanist would have used only black and red candles.

Satanists apparently use black candles to draw on the power of darkness and red for the energy of blood. Harmse told Jonker that none of his experiments had worked.

Jonker said that on the day of the murder, Harmse had not spoken in any demonic language and had seemed to be in control of himself. "What happened is shocking. The heartbreak on both sides is very sad," he added.

Harmse's defence attorney Dolph Jonker said his client lived in a dream world to avoid the pain of everyday life, and his fantasies involved aggression and violence.

The attorney argued that although his client was 18 when the crime was committed, the psychologists who had interviewed him had said he was immature for his age.

Dolph Jonker maintains that Harmse didn't mean to kill anyone, and only wanted to scare them. But the State is asking for a life sentence, saying Harmse is legally an adult and that he knew what he was doing when he planned and executed the attack.

Harmse's attorney questioned whether his client had been honest with Kobus Jonker about the extent of his involvement in the occult. The psychologists who had interviewed Harmse had found him to be shy and uncommunicative. He said a long-term jail sentence was the only fitting punishment for Harmse's crimes, but that the court should take into account his client's immaturity and problematic personality.

He also said Harmse had been exposed to significant family violence throughout his childhood, about which Harmse had said he wished not to remember those times and wanted to escape his family environment.

On Monday, Pretorius's mother Adell Bekker testified that her family had been broken by the loss of their son. "I just cannot forgive him (Harmse) for what he took away from us," she said.

Sentencing will take place on September 10 at the Johannesburg High Court.