Gauteng cops probe occult-related killings

Published Oct 20, 2012


Johannesburg - The founder of a religious ministry whose associates have fallen victim to a series of suspected occult-related murders, has received text messages warning more will die.


Ria Grunewald, of Overcomers Through Christ (OTC), revealed this week that months before three people she knew had been murdered, her group had been the target of bomb attacks.

“What, up to now, has not been mentioned, is events prior to the killings,” she said. “At one of our evening meetings 10 home-made bombs and 20 litres of petrol were found on the premises. The following week four bombs exploded under our parked vehicles during our meeting, and four vehicles were damaged.

“One of our group’s motor vehicles was vandalised [nothing stolen, only damage],” she said. “Someone was threatened at gunpoint outside my home, after one of our meetings.

“I have received warning text messages that there will be more killings of people who attend my teachings.”

The latest victim was Michaela Valentine, a 25-year-old found stabbed to death last Thursday in her home on the West Rand, with only her cellphone missing.

In August, Honeydew pastor Reg Bendixen was found dead in the garden of his home. His throat had been cut.

In July, Natacha Burger, 31, was found dead in a Centurion townhouse complex with her throat slit. Her body was discovered alongside that of her neighbour, Joyce Boonzaier, a 68-year-old pensioner with no links to the ministry. Her throat was also slit and both women had severe head wounds. Burger had been visiting Boonzaier.

Valentine reportedly attended an OTC training course more than three years ago, while Burger had joined through a training session in 2010. But Bendixen, other than being Grunewald’s mentor, was not directly affiliated with the teachings of the OTC.

Captain Katlego Mogale, Gauteng police spokeswoman, confirmed the police were investigating the four deaths in a provincially co-ordinated effort.

“For now there are no new developments on the case but detectives are tracing suspects,” Mogale said.

Grunewald said hers was not a deliverance ministry. “I don’t convert Satan worshipers to Christianity and I do not do deliverance either. Some years back I hosted enrichment weeks at schools for a period of three years, warning children against Satanism, drugs and sexual immorality. I developed training courses with knowledge on the works of Satan, as well as courses on ‘Knowing your Saviour’.”

OTC was not a membership ministry, and had no members. “It is a personal teaching ministry only. Natacha hosted and taught one of our training courses.”

She dismissed media reports that Burger, before her death had spoken the “dangerous prayer”.

“Danger prayer is a prayer for spiritual protection and not against physical attacks,” Grunewald said.

“Who would think that one would be able to enter a secure townhouse complex in broad daylight and murder two people who were surrounded by neighbours?

“Reg was a teacher who taught the word of God and had no ties with any group or ministry that I am aware of.

“He was my personal teacher and mentor and with the knowledge that I received from him, I developed the ‘Know Your Saviour’ training course.

“We were a group of believers from all different walks of life and different church groups, hungry for the word of God, so we attended Reg’s training course.

“I’m co-operating with the investigating officers who are working on the cases but I also would like to make an appeal to the experts out there.

“Please help us find the culprits responsible for the killings.”

Kobus Jonker, an expert in occult-related crimes, said he was working with the police on the case.

“The police did come and see me for advice and I am looking at this case but I can’t say much more. There are a lot of people going overboard and taking this out of perspective. We don’t go on witch hunts – arresting Satanists, pagans, or wiccans. Our focus is on the murders and the crimes committed.”

A religious leader, who did not want to be named, warned on Friday that upcoming Halloween celebrations had the potential to spark an increase in occult-related crimes.

“We can expect, as in [previous] years, that in the week leading up to Halloween, there will be an increased number of people who go missing – mainly children and vagrants – who are supposedly offered as sacrifices. People should be vigilant and aware – these things do happen – don’t take the warning signs lightly.”

Saturday Star

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