Church 'cult' to stand trial for 11 murders

Victim loved her husband, now he's accused of killing her

10 December 2017 - 00:00 By TANYA STEENKAMP

Mikeila Valentine had two great loves: her husband and God. When the 25-year-old devout Christian was killed in a stabbing frenzy in her Johannesburg home in 2012, her devastated family had no idea who had killed the young travel agent, or why.
Five years later, it appears that both her passions were linked to her death - and the details behind her murder are more horrific than her family could have imagined.
Not only has her husband, former insurance broker Zak Valentine, been charged, but police believe Mikeila's faith played a role in her murder.
Zak is among six people who were this week charged with four murders, among them Mikeila's. Police believe the killings were sparked by a split in a church group called Overcomers Through Christ, with one faction exacting revenge on the other.
The group's aim was converting satanists to Christianity.Shortly before Mikeila's death, another church member, 33-year-old Centurion lawyer Natacha Burger, had her throat slit in her neighbour's home on July 2012.
The neighbour, 68-year-old Joyce Boonzaaier, was also killed. Police believe the killers forced Boonzaaier to lure Burger to her house so they could kill her.
The following month, 75-year-old pastor Reginald Bendixen was stabbed and hacked to death with an axe at his home in Honeydew, western Johannesburg.
Mikeila was the final victim in the spree - killed in her Ruimsig home because she allegedly refused to support the murderous revenge plot carried out by her husband and other breakaway members of the church.
Police said her blood and intestines were splattered on the ceiling.
It is believed that the four murders emboldened Zak and his accomplices.
Between 2012 and May last year they are believed to have committed seven more murders in the Krugersdorp area, mostly for money.
The cult was headed by Cecilia Steyn, 36, who is believed to have led the breakaway. Other members included John Barnard, 41, Cecilia's friend, high school teacher Marinda Steyn, 51, and Marinda's two children, Marcel, 19, and LeRoux, 22.
Marcel would have been just 13 when she allegedly helped her mother and brother in Mikeila's murder.
They were arrested in 2016 and charged with three murders. A further four murder charges were added in May. Barnard was tried separately for the seven murders and sentenced to 30 years.
This week, the group was charged with the murders of Mikeila, Bendixen, Boonzaaier and Burger.
Investigating officer Captain Ben Booysen said that after an initial lack of co-operation, LeRoux had confessed to the murders.
"He said he's prepared to testify but criminals change their minds quickly," he said.
The trial is set to begin in the High Court in Johannesburg in April.Booysen said that the accused have a Latin motto tattooed: Electus per deus - chosen by God.
"They don't speak about God, they talk about 'our' god, but at this stage I don't know who their god is," said Booysen.
He said the five had been charged with 11 murders, robbery, aggravated assault, fraud, identity theft and being in possession of an unlicensed firearm.
Mikeila grew up in Heidelberg and studied at Rhema Bible College and married in 2010.
Mikeila's mother, Ilse van Dijk, this week declined to comment. Her friend Mareli Moolman said Mikeila was "kind-hearted but naive as hell".
Moolman said Mikeila grew up in a deeply religious household.
She said Zak was congenial but that she always had an uneasy feeling about him.
"When I heard the news [that Mikeila had been murdered], the first thing I thought was: he murdered her.
Moolman said the few times she ran into Mikeila the month before her death, the once tidy woman had become unkempt and sullen.
"I know Mikeila phoned her mom a day or two before she was murdered to ask for advice for a lawyer. She'd heard information that was potentially dangerous but wouldn't say what," said Moolman.
Sources close to the investigation said Mikeila's mother had initially been sceptical that her soft-spoken son-in-law, who graduated cum laude and worked for several large companies, could commit such a heinous act, but now she was relieved he had been arrested so she could get closure.
TIMELINE
2012
● July 26: Natacha Burger, 33, and Joyce Boonzaaier, 68, murdered.
● August 14: Pastor Reginald Bendixen, 75, murdered.
● October 11: Mikeila Valentine stabbed.
2015:
● November 27: Peter Meyer, 51, and wife Joan, 47, stabbed to death.
● December 16: Jarod Mitchum Jackson, 44, is burnt to death in car.
2016:
● January 27: Glen McGregor, 57, shot on his smallholding.
● May 10: Anthony Scholefield, 64, strangled.
● May 26: Kevin McAlpine, 29, strangled.
● May 31: Hanlé Lategan, 52, strangled.
● June: Marcel and LeRoux charged with murder.
● July: Zak, Cecilia and Marinda arrested for three counts of murder.
2017
● December: John Barnard pleads guilty to murder.
● May: Four murders added to charges.
● December: Another four murders added to the charges.
2018
● April 18: Trial set to start.

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