Man in dock for allegedly murdering girlfriend and baby and burning bodies
The accused, Michael Wyne Pieterson, 35, appeared in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday on two charges of murder and one charge of defeating and or obstructing the ends of justice.
The bodies of the deceased, Kantse Martha Mokgele and her baby Neo Elias Mokgele, who were burnt beyond recognition, were found on May 12 this year, hidden in the veld.
According to the State, numerous witnesses came forward immediately following the incident to report that the couple had been involved in a “tumultuous relationship” and that Pieterson had threatened to kill and burn the deceased.
Investigations determined that Kantse had experienced a history of physical abuse prior to her death.
Post-mortem results indicated that the cause of death was as a result of a head injury and smoke inhalation.
Baby Neo sustained a stab wound to the face.
In a statement that was handed in to court on Monday, Pieterson stated that he and Kantse had moved in together in 2017, but the relationship later ended and she moved out of his shanty in April 2019.
He indicated that he continued to see her on a regular basis after they had split up, stating that he last saw her on May 11.
Pieterson denied assaulting the deceased or inflicting any injury on the deceased that could have contributed towards their deaths.
During her testimony, Eva Marais said that her niece (Kantse) and Pieterson had visited her home on May 11 - the day before her disappearance - and that they were arguing.
“She first came on her own, where she was looking for her sister and her child. She left briefly and returned with the accused. They were shouting at each other and Pieterson was crying, where he professed his love for Kantse,” Marais said.
“I told him to stop right there and advised him that if he really loved her, Kantse would not have a blue eye, a swollen mouth and a swollen foot after he hit her with a hammer.”
Marais added that Kantse repeatedly complained about being assaulted.
“I told the accused that it is not love but an obsession. Honestly, their relationship was stormy, to say the least, they were on, then off, then separated.”
She stated that Kantse refused to go to Pieterson’s shack to fetch her cellphone when he instructed her to do so on May 11.
“She insisted that she was not going anywhere. While the three of us were standing in the sitting room, I asked Kantse if she still wanted Pieterson back and whether she wanted to stay with him in his shack. She stated that she did not want to, as he would kill her if she went back.”
Marais related that Pieterson had, without much emotion, acknowledged that Kantse “did not want him back”.
“We thought that he had left. However, when my husband told my son to go and pick up his socks at the window, he refused when he saw the accused standing in the yard.”
Marais added that Kantse’s sister arrived a short while later at her house with the baby, and Kantse then breastfed him.
She offered her niece some food, before she and her husband walked Kantse halfway home at about 7.10pm.
“Kantse was carrying the baby on her back. As we were approaching her house, she told us that we could turn back home, as she was alright. That is the last time that I saw her. She shared the house with her older sister, younger sister, younger brother and children. I did not see the accused in the vicinity while we were walking Kantse home.”
Marais stated that Kantse had failed to arrive at her house the following day, when she was planning to celebrate Mother’s Day by having a braai.
“At around 11am, Kantse’s sister came to my house and asked if she had slept over at my house. She had not slept at home, or at her aunt, or her grandmother’s place, or at her other sister the night before. We searched for Kantse at the accused’s shanty. He was sitting there with a friend. We also checked at the foster parent’s house but she was not there either. The foster parent was convinced that the burnt bodies that had been found in the veld were those of Kantse and Neo.”
Marais said that she contacted the police, as well as another SAPS official whom she knew from the community policing forum, for assistance.
“Captain Brown asked me what type of clothes the deceased were wearing when they were last seen and their identities were later confirmed. The accused arrived around the same time as the police van came to my house. I did not enquire why the police officials instructed him to climb into the vehicle before they drove off.”
She admitted that she did not approve of the relationship between Kantse and Pieterson.
“Every time I saw her, she had sustained another injury. I didn’t really approve of their relationship, but at the end of the day it was her decision. She kept on saying that they were no longer involved in a relationship after she moved out. ”
Marais added that she had promised to assist her niece in reclaiming custody of her child, who had been placed in foster care.
Pieterson’s legal representative, Heinrich Steynberg from Legal Aid South Africa, indicated that according to his client, Marais had warned him “to stay away from Kantse”.
“Marais told the accused that he was an unemployed jailbird and that he would land up where he belonged.
“The accused indicated that he would never be separated from the deceased and their child, as they had a future together. My client also denies crying or saying how much he loved the deceased at Marais’ home.”
The case continues before Acting Judge Willem Coetzee.
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