Convicted killer Maartens van der Merwe said on Tuesday (30/10/2012) he and his fiancée Charne van Heerden pushed each other to commit a murder.
"We would never have done it individually. We pushed each other, I know,” a tearful Van Heerden told the Virginia Circuit Court.
He was testifying in mitigation of his sentence after the court found him guilty of killing Welkom resident Michael van Eck in 2011.
Cross-examined by the State, Van der Merwe acknowledged Van Eck was an unfortunate man available at an unfortunate time.
Upon taking the stand, Van der Merwe turned to Van Eck’s family, sitting in the front row of the public gallery, and asked them for forgiveness. Van Eck’s mother shook her head.
Van der Merwe testified to the rituals he and Van Heerden had performed to show their "togetherness” as outsiders. Part of this was a set of rings dipped into a small bucket of their own blood.
"Why blood?” asked State prosecutor Johan de Nysschen.
Van der Merwe replied: "I do not know. It shows we are bonded to each other.” He said the rituals of cutting themselves and skinning cats had nothing to do with occult practices. He said Satanism had come up in discussions but they never took it further.
"It was something we did with a feeling of being together.” He testified he was in the same room when Van Heerden mutilated Van Eck’s face the day after the murder.
"I did not get any satisfaction from that. I cannot say why, I do not know,” a soft-spoken Van der Merwe said.
He was repeatedly asked to speak up.
According to the Independent Online Van Eck had been decapitated, his right arm cut off, and both his legs amputated at the knees. Some of his body parts had been buried in a shallow grave at the Welkom cemetery. Van Eck’s facial skin, with the mouth stitched closed, and his eyes and ears, were found in the couple’s fridge.
Van der Merwe told the court of Van Heerden’s urge to stitch skin.
On a question how they made the move from skinning cats to killing a human, Van der Merwe said Van Heerden loved him too much to practice her stitching on him.
"She did not want to cut me,” he said in tears.
Eventually he agreed it would be "okay” if they got somebody else.
He told Judge Ian van der Merwe he and Van Heerden would not have committed murder as individuals.
"I know I was wrong, I was sick. I can get better... I know what happened was wrong, I deny nothing. I do not know how we got to this (murder).” Van der Merwe said it would never happen again.
Asked how he could guarantee this he replied: "I can’t give a guarantee, I can only say never again.” Earlier in cross examination, Van der Merwe said the crucifixion of a small cat gave him no pleasure.
"What possessed you two to crucify the cat, then?” asked De Nysschen.
"I do not know,” said Van der Merwe, adding that the rituals and cats had nothing to do with Van Eck’s murder.
Earlier Judge van der Merwe held that Van der Merwe could differentiate between right and wrong at the time of the murder. He did not suffer from any psychological illness at the time, the judge concluded.
His lawyer, Pieter Nel, entered a guilty plea on all charges and read out a statement.
The 25-year-old was convicted of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstance, and dismembering the victim’s body.
The judgment came after the State called a final expert witness, Dr Carla Kotze of Weskoppies psychiatric hospital in Pretoria, to testify.
She said Van der Merwe could understand right from wrong and there was no evidence of him being under any influence at the time of the crime.
Van der Merwe’s trial was separated from that of Van Heerden, 21, in 2011.
She was convicted of Van Eck’s murder, declared a dangerous criminal and sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison in November last year.
The matter continues. - Sapa