Plea bargains possible for two in Krugersdorp killing spree trial
A baby boy born just after his father was murdered is helping his family cope as the alleged culprits – a group of friends and neighbours from Krugersdorp on Gauteng’s West Rand – go on trial for an alleged four-year serial killing spree.
The trial‚ set down to run for two months‚ was meant to get under way on Monday but has been postponed until May 2. It is understood that two of the five accused are negotiating plea bargains. A sixth person has already been convicted.
Juanette McAlpine‚ mother of Kevin McAlpine‚ a 29-year-old insurance broker who was killed in 2016‚ three days after celebrating his first wedding anniversary‚ told this publication after the court adjourned: “We really thought the case would start today. We just want it to be over.”
She said Kevin’s wife‚ Kezia‚ is coping but that they would all be able to start their lives anew when the case was finalised.
Her grandson was born just after Kevin was murdered and is now two years old.
“He’s been a blessing between all of this‚” she said.
Ella du Toit‚ Juanette’s friend and appointed spokesperson for the families‚ said: “It will be a traumatic eight weeks‚ or however long this will take“.
The accused are Cecilia Steyn‚ her friend Marinda Steyn and her two children Marcel and Leroux Steyn‚ and Zak Valentine.
The group is charged with murdering 11 people from 2012 to 2016‚ robbery‚ aggravated assault‚racketeering‚ possession of an unlicensed firearm‚ fraud and identity theft.
The group‚ who often change their hair and appearance‚ looked ordinary this time. Previously Cecelia carried an oxygen tank with her to court‚ but did not on Monday. She sported a short spiky black hairdo for their latest appearance.
They seemed to be in good spirits as they chatted before the judge arrived.
Valentine looked back and smiled a few times at his parents‚ who were seated near the back of the court. The couple has religiously attended every court appearance by their son.
The murders are believed to have started when Cecilia Steyn‚ a self-proclaimed child psychologist‚ allegedly had a fallout with the pastor of the Overcomers Through Christ Church.
In July 2012‚ church member and lawyer Natacha Burger had her throat slit in her neighbour’s home. The neighbour‚ Joyce Boonzaaier‚ was also killed in the same way. Police believe the killers forced Boonzaaier to lure Burger to her house so that they could kill her.
The following month‚ Pastor Reginald Bendixen was stabbed and hacked to death with an axe at his home in Honeydew‚ western Johannesburg.
Valentine’s wife‚ 25-year-old Mikeila‚ was killed in October 2012 in their home in Ruimsig‚ Roodepoort‚ apparently because she refused to support the alleged 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 alleged that the four murders emboldened Valentine and his accomplices. They are alleged to have committed seven more murders in the Krugersdorp area‚ mostly for money.
Investigating officer Ben Booysen said the accused all have the tattoo 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.
John Barnard‚ a 40-year-old printmaker‚ got involved with the group shortly after the initial murders and joined them in their alleged killing spree of the seven others.
Barnard confessed last year and was sentenced to 30 years in jail with 10 suspended on condition that he testify against the other accused.
At least two of the people who will be testifying against the group are currently in hiding and have agreed to speak out on the condition that they are kept safe.
“Many of the people involved don’t want to testify. They are still very scared of these people. It makes my job very difficult‚” said Booysen.
He said this is the first time in South Africa that there has been a group of serial murderers who kill mainly for money.
In November 2015‚ Barnard said the group targeted his long-time employers‚ Peter and Joan Meyer‚ because he thought they kept millions of rand in cash in a safe at their home in Noordheuwel‚ Krugersdorp.
He said that when they realised there was no money‚ Valentine “lost it” and stabbed the couple.
The failed robbery then allegedly sparked a new plan to fake Valentine’s death so that they could claim a life insurance payout. Cecilia Steyn was the sole beneficiary of Valentine’s policy.
Barnard testified that he‚ Valentine and Leroux Steyn befriended Jarrod Jackson‚ who lived on the street. Valentine invited Jackson on a trip to the Free State in December 2015. On the way‚ they strangled him‚ put him in the driver’s seat and set the car on fire‚ according to Barnard.
They then claimed that the dead man was Valentine and applied for the policy payout. When the insurance company suspected foul play and refused to pay out‚ the group allegedly changed their modus operandi.
In January 2016‚ the group made an appointment with tax consultant Glen McGregor at his smallholding in Randfontein‚ near Krugersdorp. There they allegedly forced him to transfer money into Marinda Steyn’s account and then shot him in the stomach.
Insurance brokers McAlpine and Anthony Scholefield as well as estate agent Hanlé Lategan were allegedly approached in a similar way.
A police source said: “They made appointments with all these people at Key West shopping centre in Krugersdorp‚ among other places. Then they would phone them and say something like their car had broken down and ask if they could meet at the local hospital.
“Once there‚ they would lure them into Marinda’s flat‚ which is opposite the hospital‚ tie them up and murder them.” The bodies were then dumped.