Johannesburg - The mother of two Olympic athletes is facing a 15-year prison sentence after being accused of forging her deceased husband’s will and trying to defraud his estate of millions of rand.

Adelene Toxopeus, the owner of the Little Falls Garden Centre in Muldersdrift, first entered the media spotlight in April last year after she was accused of mistreating primates at the facility.

Forty-nine starving monkeys at the time were seized from the centre by International Primates Rescue (IPR), which had secured a court order after trying for months to negotiate with the centre’s administration to improve the animals’ living conditions.

IPR founder Sue Mousley said the monkeys had been given little or no food or water in their “filthy” enclosures. While Adelene denied any wrongdoing at the time, IPR and Little Falls ultimately came to a settlement where the monkeys were eventually taken to a farm in Vaalwater.

The owners of the farm agreed to accommodate, feed and have the monkeys treated by veterinarians. But Adelene, the mother of Olympic marathon runner Irvette van Zyl and mother-in-law of Olympic hurdler LJ van Zyl, has again landed in hot water.

This time, the 58-year-old has been accused of forging several documents to swindle millions from the estate of her late husband, Pieter. 

According to the charge sheet for her fraud, uttering and forgery case at the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court (SCCC) in Joburg, Pieter Toxopeus, a wealthy businessman, died in a car crash in 2009. 

In his original will and testament, dating to 1998, Pieter divided his estate among his three adult children. After marrying Adelene in March 2000, he prepared a codicil - an amendment or addition to the will - on Valentine’s Day 2001, granting his new wife the rights to his Muldersdrift home on his death.

A second codicil granted Adelene his share of Little Falls as well as his other companies and trusts. However, the state alleges that three years after Pieter’s death Adelene forged a new codicil, supposedly drafted in 2003, insisting that his Momentum Life policy also be left to her.

Five months after the new codicil was handed over to the estate’s executor, Derek Irish, Adelene is alleged to have forged another codicil - this time granting her millions of rand from Pieter’s estate. 

The new will would grant Adelene:

* R100 000 a month, with an annual increase of 10%;

* Access to the Muldersdrift property - with all of her bills paid, including water, lights, telephone, rates and taxes, maintenance, insurance costs, her car insurance;

* The estate would have to cover all of her holidays, all medical bills, including her current hospital plan;

* A new car of her choice every two years;

* Replacement of all furniture and curtains in the home; and

* R1m to Irish.

Another odd addition to the will was the granting of R500 000 to Pieter’s son, Hendrik, but only if, for two years after his father’s death, he visited Adelene and spent sufficient time with her.

If he did not comply, the money would be divided among Adelene’s children, including Irvette van Zyl.

The new codicil came with two letters, supposedly written by Pieter, implying a rift between him and the children from his first marriage.

The State alleges these documents were also forged. After Irish died in 2013, Adelene applied to the Master's office in Joburg to replace him as executor. The plan worked, but only temporarily, as her executorship was revoked a short while later.

While sources close to the investigation have indicated Adelene was in negotiations for a plea bargain with the State, it’s understood such a deal fell through.

Adelene appeared at the SCCC last month, with her case set to continue later this month. If convicted on the more than 20 charges she faces, she could get a 15-year jail term, unless there are exceptional circumstances to deviate from this minimum sentence.

When contacted for comment, she referred queries to her lawyer, Ashley Gittens. Gittens said: “Our firm was recently instructed. We are thus not in a position to comment as to the history of our client’s case our client vehemently denies the allegations.”

Saturday Star