Cold-blooded killers: 7 gruesome murder cases that shook SA in 2018

27 December 2018 - 07:00 By TimesLIVE
Sandile Mantsoe at the South Gauteng High Court on May 3 2018. He was sentenced to more than 30 years in jail for the murder of Karabo Mokoena.
Sandile Mantsoe at the South Gauteng High Court on May 3 2018. He was sentenced to more than 30 years in jail for the murder of Karabo Mokoena.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

From jealous partners to cold-blooded killers, here are eight murder cases that shook South Africa in 2018.

1. Karabo Mokoena murder

Sandile Mantsoe was sentenced to more than 30 years imprisonment for the murder of Karabo Mokoena.

Mantsoe, who claimed to be an evangelist-turned-pastor, was found guilty of beating Mokoena, killing her and burning her body in April last year.

Karabo's remains were found in a ditch not far away from Mantsoe's mother's house in Lyndhurst, Johannesburg. Her painted toenails were the only way the Mokoenas were able to identify her, because her body had been destroyed by pool acid and fire.

Mantsoe maintained that Karabo ended her own life by plunging a knife into her neck. He said he had panicked and disposed of her body.

Chilling CCTV footage of Mantsoe disposing of the body later emerged as the lead investigator told TimesLIVE he was convinced the young woman was murdered as part of a ritual killing.

Dramatic video showed Karabo Mokoena’s murderer Sandile Manstoe disposing of her body.

2. Hannah Cornelius

Vernon WitbooiGeraldo Parsons‚ and Eben van Niekerk were sentenced to life imprisonment after they were found guilty of robbing‚ kidnapping‚ raping and murdering Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius.

Cornelius and her friend Cheslin Marsh were hijacked in Stellenbosch in May last year. Cornelius had offered Marsh‚ a fellow student‚ a lift to his university residence in the early hours of the morning‚ when the accused men allegedly pounced upon them.

Video footage shows the attack on the students. Cornelius’s body was found four hours later‚ while Marsh was left for dead in a field in Kraaifontein after a severe beating.

The men were also found guilty of the attempted murder of Marsh‚ and of robbing and kidnapping Miemie October and Ncumisa Qwina in the early hours of May 27.

The fourth accused‚ Nashville Julius, received 22 years direct imprisonment for robbery and kidnapping.

By using newly released CCTV footage of the alleged perpetrators, along with confessions of the accused and witness testimonies, we are able to map out the most likely sequence of events that led to her death and the arrest of the suspects after a high-speed car chase through Stellenbosch.

3. Susan Rohde

Jason Rohde was found guilty of murdering his wife Susan at the Spier Wine Estate in July 2016 and trying to make it look like a suicide.

Susan had insisted on attending the event as she was suspicious of Rohde after finding out five months earlier that he was having an affair with Cape Town estate agent Jolene Alterskye.

In her ruling, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe detailed in fine-grain description how the love triangle between the couple and Rohde's mistress reached a crescendo on that fateful weekend, when he tried to leave the hotel to be with his lover, while Susan tried to stop him.

She found that Susan's death was consistent with manual strangulation and asphyxiation, and that Rohde had tried to make it look as though his wife had hanged herself with the chord of a hair iron from a hook on the back of the bathroom door.

The case is set to resume in February for sentencing. 

4. Van Breda triple murders

Henri van Breda was described as a cold-blooded‚ savage and cruel killer as he was sentenced to three life terms for the murders of his parents‚ Martin and Teresa‚ and older brother Rudi.

The 23-year-old was also sentenced to 15 years in prison for the attempted murder of his sister‚ Marli‚ and 12 months for obstructing the ends of justice by attempting to cover up his crimes.

Marli only narrowly survived Henri’s axe attack at the family’s Stellenbosch home in January 2015 after putting up a major battle against him‚ according to evidence in the murder trial. She will remain under the curatorship of an advocate until just after her 21st birthday late next year.

His petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, as well as the Cape Town High Court, to be granted leave to appeal his conviction both failed.

The axe triple murder case that rocked South Africa finally came to a close.

5. Courtney Pieters

Mortimer Saunders was sentenced to two life terms for the rape and murder of three-year-old Courtney Pieters.  

Courtney was murdered in her home in Elsies River in May 2017. Saunders was a tenant in her home at the time‚ and he was also friends with Courtney’s father‚ Aaron Fourie.

According to Saunders, Courtney irritated him by waking him up because she wanted to watch television in his room. He said he decided to poison the child to spite her mother, Juanita Pieters, because there was bad blood between them.

Courtney’s body was found nine days after her disappearance. Saunders took part in the search for her and led the community away from where she lay.

Saunders was nailed by CCTV footage which showed him dumping the child's body.

CCTV footage was released of Mortimer Saunders carrying and dumping 3-year-old Courtney Pieters' body after he killed the child in her family home.

6. Krugersdorp killings

Cecilia Steyn, Marcel Steyn and Zak Valentine stood trial in the South Gauteng High Court for their alleged involvement in the murder of 11 people between 2012 to 2016. They are also facing charges of robbery‚ aggravated assault‚ racketeering‚ possession of an unlicensed firearm‚ fraud and identity theft. The trio have pleaded not guilty. 

Police believe the killings were sparked by a split in the Overcomers Through Christ (OTC). The group’s aim was converting satanists to Christianity. Cecilia, who has been dubbed the mastermind behind the crimes, formed a breakaway group with a circle of friends. The first victims were members of the OTC church.

Earlier this year former high school teacher Marinda Steyn‚ 51‚ was sentenced to 11 life terms while her son‚ Le Roux Steyn‚ is serving an effective 25-year prison term. Marcel is her daughter.  

The trial was postponed to May 13.

The alleged 'Krugersdorp killers' Marcel Steyn, Cecilia Steyn and Zak Valentine in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on October 8 2018.
The alleged 'Krugersdorp killers' Marcel Steyn, Cecilia Steyn and Zak Valentine in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on October 8 2018.
Image: Iavan Pijoos

7. Murder in Cape Town: Gabriela Alban

Guatemalan Diego Novella was convicted this year of murdering his American girlfriend, Gabriela Kabrins Alban, at the Camps Bay Retreat boutique hotel in July 2015. 

Alban was strangled and sustained blunt force trauma to the face.

Novella is the son of a Guatemalan multi-millionaire family and, as a trust fund kid‚ has never worked — instead living a life of drugs‚ parties and endless travel.