New advocate for Winnie Rust murder accused

Cape Town - An accused’s right to legal representation didn’t mean he could chop and change at will, Judge Elize Steyn told one of the men accused of murdering Wellington author Winnie Rust. 

Steyn made it clear to Nigel Plaatjies in the Western Cape High Court on Thursday that should he not confirm his legal aid representation, he had another option.

“You can’t choose [your legal aid advocate]. If you’re not satisfied, you can represent yourself,” Steyn told Plaatjies, who nodded his understanding.

He and his uncle Johannes Plaatjies are accused of murdering the author – a relative of his mother’s employer – in her Uitsig home last year.

The teenager was initially represented by Advocate Bruce Morrison, who was then replaced by Advocate Leandra Adams, whom Steyn said had always been respected in the high court.

On Monday, Adams told Steyn she had received a call before 09:00 on Monday from Plaatjies who said he did not want her services anymore due to a breakdown in trust.

READ MORE: Winnie Rust murder accused changes lawyers

He had wanted Morrison to represent him, but on Thursday the advocate said he would not be available for the duration of the trial as he had other cases to attend.

Steyn gave Plaatjies until Thursday afternoon to confirm his legal representation and it was decided that advocate Jan Buurman would represent him.

The case was postponed to allow the two to consult.

The once promising athlete and his mother’s brother are accused of killing Rust, 77, on May 11, 2016.

Her husband, Dr Manie Rust, 87, had been asleep at the time and later found her on the kitchen floor when he heard the bell at the gate ringing at 15:30 that day.

The Afrikaans author had injuries to her face. She had been strangled and her hands and feet were bound.

It emerged during their pre-trial conference that both men intended pleading not guilty.

His mother worked for Rust's daughter, and the author had been paying for his sports activities and school fees since he was in primary school.

He regularly visited her home.

No bail

Plaatjies unsuccessfully applied for bail twice.

He, in his initial statement to police, claimed he was forced to take part in the robbery at Rust's home as Johannes owed a drug lord money and his family’s safety had been threatened.

During his second attempt at bail, Nigel told the court he walked in on the robbery. He said he had an appointment to see Rust to discuss her paying for him to get his driver's licence.

His uncle along with three others had been robbing the house, Plaatjies claimed, and he had been forced to take part.

Laptops, a handbag, bank cards, a cellphone, and rings from Rust’s hand were taken.

Nigel had no prior convictions, while his uncle had a string of crimes to his name, including a conviction for housebreaking, eight for theft, two for assault, and two for drunk driving.

The trial is expected to commence on Tuesday.

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