This was the scene Derek van Rooyen described on the day his wife was found dead in their Durbanville home. Almost two years after Hillary van Rooyen’s alleged murder in her Eversdal home on May 9 2017, the trial for her murder started this week in the Western Cape High Court.
Reghard Groenewald, a family friend, is on trial for the alleged murder. First up in the witness box for the State was distraught but composed husband, Derek.
The couple had been married for 28-and-a-half years and lived in Durbanville for 20 years.
They both attended the same school and his wife was an accounting tutor to high school students. “We had a good and stable marriage,” said Van Rooyen.
He echoed this under cross-examination. “I adored her, she adored me. You couldn’t help but love her. She was very generous. We always had a good relationship, we were very much in love.”
Van Rooyen told Judge Derek Wille that only he, his wife and their son Dean had keys to the property.
Van Rooyen described how on May 9 he received a call from Tygerberg Animal Hospital to say someone had picked up his wife’s car keys and handed it in at the Eversdal School.
“The pouch with the keys had Hillary’s driver’s licence,” he said.
After failing to get hold of his wife, Van Rooyen called the OK Mini Mart opposite their house and asked the manager to check if anyone was home.
The manager reported back that nobody was home and there were no cars in the driveway.
Finally, Van Rooyen asked his eldest son, Dean, to check up on his wife.
“Mom is just lying here, she is not moving,” these were the first words Van Rooyen heard from his son but he could not get into the house.
Derek said he then left work. When he arrived people, an ambulance and police were there. Van Rooyen then drove to the Hillary’s mom to inform her. He added that he knew of the accused but that he was not a close friend of his youngest son, Luke and he was aware that he had been at his house the previous day.
In a statement read out by the defence for the accused he pleaded not guilty to theft and robbery. He took an iPhone and keys but according to his statement, had no intention to permanently remove it.
Groenewald befriended the Van Rooyens while attending school with youngest son, Luke. The accused’s statement further said that he was invited by the deceased to say goodbye before his trip to teach in China. He ran out of petrol and borrowed R100 from the deceased on May 8.
The next day he had coffee with the deceased to return the money but she wanted him to stay longer.
“She pressed her bosom in my back. I become very uncomfortable. She grabbed me in passionate embrace,” the statement read.
Groenewald pushed her forcibly and she fell back, onto her knees, and then threatened to tell everyone that he assaulted her and wanted to have sex with her. He said he hit her twice with a vase to get her away from him.