Killers hunted motorcyclist stranded on CT freeway 'like wolves'
Driven by the need to feed their drug habit, the three men acted like wolves when they cornered, robbed and shot a stranded female motorcyclist on a busy freeway in Cape Town.
Despite entering into a plea bargain with the state, judge Gaayat Salie-Hlophe handed Michael Pietersen an effective 25-year jail sentence at the high court in Cape Town on Wednesday.
Lucian Ackerman was handed a life sentence.
Their co-accused Elton Abrahams is due to stand trial on February 24.
“I further admit that my co-accused had a firearm with him,” said Pietersen in court papers.
“I admit that on September 28 2018 at or near the railway bridge over the N1 highway, direction Cape Town, I unlawfully, intentionally and with force took the deceased’s backpack containing her wallet with R3,000 cash and her cellphone. I admit that using a firearm to threaten and shoot the deceased with are indeed aggravating circumstances.”
“I admit that … I unlawfully and intentionally killed the deceased Zelda van Niekerk, an adult female by shooting her with a firearm,” said Ackerman in his chilling confession.
Ackerman said on the day, he and his co-accused smoked drugs and “then decided that we wanted to rob somebody to obtain further funds”.
“I had a firearm in my possession, which I had obtained from my cousin, who is part of a gang. I do not recall the make, model or calibre of the firearm. The firearm was loaded with ammunition. I do not recall how many rounds of ammunition it contained,” reads Ackerman’s confession.
“My co-accused and I decided to go to Summer Greens. We were unsuccessful in our attempt to find someone to rob and decided to return back to Fractreton. On our return, as we approached the bridge at the N1 highway, we spotted the deceased. We noticed a biker with a helmet on and a cellphone in hand. We decided to rob the deceased.
“Pietersen went for the deceased’s backpack, who resisted. I then took out the firearm in an attempt to scare the deceased, but [she] still resisted.
"The deceased then attempted to flag down motor vehicles, but nobody stopped. I then panicked. I was concerned that somebody would stop soon, so I decided to shoot, so that the deceased would stop resisting, thus enabling us to take possession of the backpack and cellphone.”
Ackerman said he shot Van Niekerk in the “upper chest area” before taking her possessions. He said they ran away, then split the money.
“I admit that my actions were wrongful and unlawful and that I have no legal defence for my actions and that they are punishable by this honourable court.”
Salie-Hlophe said Pietersen had expressed remorse but was “no stranger to breaking the law”.
“I have taken into account that you have been raised in an area rife with drugs, that on the day in question you were motivated by the need to feed your need or want of drugs.”
But “the picture is somewhat different” with Ackerman, she said.
“Although you are of similar age and plead guilty … you have quite a lengthy criminal record, of which offences relate to theft in the form of housebreaking charges, as well as assault charges [in which] elements of violence play a significant role.
“On the date in question, you had been serving a suspended sentence for the crime of assault, in respect of which you were convicted just a month prior to the crimes in question.”
Salie-Hlophe said the men committed the crime in broad daylight with “passing traffic in full sight”.
“It was a brazen act, one which was motivated by pure selfishness and with flagrant disregard for the life of another human being,” she said.
“You went about that day like wolves, walking through nearby areas looking for a victim, armed with a firearm to rob at all cost.”
She said Van Niekerk had not posed any threat to the men. “She was no threat to you and certainly no match for you. She was an average-built woman, 1.73cm tall and weighed 65kg, as per the postmortem report. You could easily have overpowered her and left her life intact.
"From the evidence led before this court, Zelda was well-loved. Her friends, family and the young boys she parented are traumatised and hurt by her tragic death. She was kind and caring.”