Cop loses murder conviction appeal

Pietermaritzburg - A police constable lost an appeal against his conviction in a KwaZulu-Natal court on Tuesday for killing his wife, but got his sentence reduced.

Constable Morne Croeser murdered his wife, Erika, by stabbing her 14 times.

Although he lost his appeal, his 23-year jail sentence was cut to 18 years by three judges in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg.

Erika, an eco-tourism co-ordinator at Albert Falls dam near Pietermaritzburg, was murdered when she and Morne returned home after leaving a pub at 01:30 in August 2010.

In his trial Morne testified that after parking his car he entered the Croeser home and heard Erika scream.

He saw her bleeding on the laundry floor. An intruder then stabbed him in the abdomen. The attacker fled and Morne fired a shot to call for help.

Trial Judge Esther Steyn found Croeser killed his wife and stabbed himself.

Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel, sitting as an appeal judge, said Morne's wound penetrated the abdominal wall, but avoided internal organs.

It followed the contour of his abdomen between muscle, fat, and skin. There was no corresponding hole in his shirt or jacket.

He was unable to explain how this happened and why there was no blood on the inside of the shirt.

The post mortem doctor described Erika's cause of death as wounds to the neck and chest.

There was no blood on her feet or shoes, indicating she was not attacked while erect.

Erika and Morne were married in May 2001 and divorced in 2003. They had two daughters.

Erika's mother told the court the marriage was not happy as he had extra-marital affairs.

He used to mock her as she was overweight. They remarried in November 2003.

Judges Gregory Kruger and Kate Pillay concurred with Judge Ploos van Amstel.

Reducing the sentencing from 23 to 18 years, Van Amstel said Croeser was a dedicated policeman with an excellent record. He was not a criminal in the ordinary sense of the word. There was a suggestion that he had an anger problem and had undertaken to go for counselling.

When he and his wife were in the pub, the couple appeared to be comfortable together and were sitting close together. In the absence of premeditation, something must have happened which sparked the attack.

This and the large number of stab wounds suggested an explosion of rage, Van Amstel said.