'We killed a homeless man to fake Zak Valentine's death' - Krugersdorp witness testifies
One of the state witnesses in the case of the Krugersdorp murders on Wednesday explained in detail to the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg how they murdered a homeless man to fake the death of one of the accused.
Le Roux Steyn was testifying in the trial of Cecilia Steyn‚ 37‚ Zak Valentine‚ 33‚ and his sister Marcel Steyn‚ 20‚ who have pleaded not guilty to 32 counts‚ including murder‚ robbery with aggravating circumstances‚ fraud and intimidation.
The younger Steyn's mother‚ former high school teacher Marinda Steyn‚ 51‚ was earlier this year sentenced to 11 life terms for the Krugersdorp murder spree.
Le Roux entered into a plea bargain with the State in May. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison for each of the seven counts of murder he was convicted of. Ten years of his sentence were suspended on condition that he testifies in the trial.
They were part of the so-called Electus Per Deus (Chosen by God) group. The group is accused of murdering 11 people between 2012 and 2016.
Le Roux said they orchestrated a plan to fake the death of Valentine to claim his life policy.
The group had run low on money at that stage.
"The plan was to find someone who looked like Zak‚ the same size and built like him‚ then kill him and wait for the policy to pay out‚" Le Roux told the court.
During his first hour of testimony he spoke fast and fluently. He sat calmly in the dock with his legs and hands chained. His testimony left the courtroom gallery shaken. Some broke into tears and had to be comforted by friends.
On December 16 2015 they found a homeless man who lived in Cecilia's storeroom. They had known the man for a few months.
Late that afternoon‚ the group agreed to use him for the murder.
"We prepared a juice for him with crushed tablets. Cecilia and I prepared it‚ she had a box full of tablets and we crushed about 20 pills in the juice‚" Le Roux said.
They drove in two cars towards the Free State. He said they made a booking for Valentine at the town of Petrus Steyn in the Free State to make it seem like he went on holiday.
Le Roux sat behind the man because he had to strangle him with a piece of rope. They gave the man the juice when they reached Randfontein. Halfway through the trip‚ the man started becoming drowsy.
"I sat directly behind the passenger seat‚ put my legs up and strangled him for quite a while."
They pulled off at a side road‚ put the man in the driver's seat and threw paraffin over the car before setting it alight.
They then left the scene and made their way back to Krugersdorp.
A few days later they drove back to Petrus Steyn to identify the body. Valentine was declared dead.
Meanwhile‚ Valentine stayed under the name of Jacques at Die Herberg Hotel in Krugersdorp while Steyn made arrangements with Discovery for his life policy to pay out.
"I told them [Discovery] that I worked for Zak and he used to be a good friend of mine."
After he was declared dead‚ the group went to his house to fetch all his valuables from his home.
Le Roux also told the court how he made a fake identification book for Valentine.
The trial continues.