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Inside the killers' Krugersdorp church group

Anja - a little girl between the ages of three and four - who had a love for Vanilla milk. This is one of the personas adopted by the mastermind of the Krugersdorp murders, who used the pretence of satanism to manipulate the people in her church group.

Seated in a brown wooden chair, a former Overcomers Through Christ (OTC) church member, Melodie van Brakel, recalled how Cecilia Steyn duped them. 

"Vanilla milk had just hit the shelves at that stage. It was a big hit and everybody was just drinking vanilla milk. Some nights I personally drove to the garage to buy Cecilia vanilla milk," Van Brakel said.

"She would be happy and stop crying when she got the milk."

Steyn's accomplices - friend Marinda Steyn, Zak Valentine and John Barnard, as well as Marinda's children Le Roux and Marcel Steyn - have all been convicted for murdering 11 people in the area. Three are serving lengthy prison terms while Cecilia, Marcel and Valentine are awaiting sentencing which gets under way this week.

Van Brakel currently runs "The Cradle of Hope", a non-profit organisation in Krugersdorp, but was part of OTC back in 2007.

The church used to visit the local high school her daughter attended. "They used to come to the school during recess times in the hall and sing songs and tell people about Jesus and winning souls."

Ria Grunewald was the leader of the group. "At that stage, there was nothing wrong with the group. It was just someone with a passion for the Lord, trying to win souls."

What was originally a prayer group, became an anti-Satanic movement in the town, following the "Ninja attack" by matric pupil Morne Harmse, which "spiralled the whole town of Krugersdorp into satanic paranoia," according to Van Brakel.

In August 2008, Harmse - who claimed that a ghost appeared to him as a young boy and told him to become a satanist - attacked and killed 16-year-old Jacques Pretorius, a fellow Nic Diederichs Technical High School pupil, with a samurai sword.

Van Brakel said while the cloud of satanism hung over Krugersdorp, Grunewald and Steyn began presenting the "Know Your Enemy" course at a guest house in town. The course was presented on Tuesday evenings.

All in attendance received a CD and file for attending the course. "It was a very thick file of satanism facts and signs, movies, colours and everything about satanism."

She said they were told that Cecilia had written the course manual, but on the inside was written "Zeena".

"We were told that Zeena was Cecilia's one personality and her other name. In the beginning the course was very helpful.

"My daughter was also dating a guy who was involved in the murder of a young boy. We were trying to help this young boy as well."

Grunewald did all the talking and Steyn sat very close to her. "Ria and Cecilia were extremely close, Ria saw herself as Cecilia's saviour."

"We were constantly told that Cecilia had come from satanism.

"Ria slept next to Cecilia's bed at night, they told us stories of her (Cecilia’s) family throwing scorpions through her window in an attempt to try and kill her."

She said Steyn had also lived close to a hospital to get medical attention as soon as she suffered a satanic attack.

"We knew that Cecilia's husband was a policeman, but he was oblivious to all of this."

Van Brakel said Marinda Steyn - the schoolteacher who dramatically took the stand and confessed to the thrill she felt while committing murder - was part of OTC from the beginning, attending the courses with her two children, Le Roux and Marcel.

"Marinda was very radical, she spoke a lot and was very loud.

"She was a teacher, had her own car and two children, so I presumed that she was a normal person."

At times, she also presented the course with Grunewald and Cecilia.

Van Brakel said at a later stage the course became very "negative", because the followers became terrified of satanism.

"Everything became dark. Everything you looked at you tried to see satanism in it."

She left OTC after an occasion when Marinda grabbed her handbag.

"On my handbag I had a little ball one of my friends had given to me. It was a little ball with crystals in it. Marinda grabbed my arm and handbag, she was very hard when she did it.

“She shouted and said: ‘You must remove that ball from your handbag immediately and burn it, because in each one of those crystals there is a thousand demons.

"We never returned again."

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