Krugersdorp Killers trial: Everything that’s happened so far
“Cecilia [Steyn] kicked Kevin’s body,” the high court in Johannesburg heard in the trial this past week of the alleged Krugersdorp Killers.
The tension was palpable in courtroom 2D of the high court in Johannesburg when the testimony of the first witness in the case of the so-called Krugersdorp Appointment Murder trial kicked off on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.
Convicted murderer Le Roux Steyn (22) testified against his three co-accused – Zak Valentine (34), Cecilia Steyn (37) and Marcel Steyn (20).
Police formed a special task team to investigate the Krugersdorp murders after two insurance brokers, Anthony Scholefield (64) and Kevin McAlpine (29), as well as estate agent Hanlé Lategan (52)were all murdered in May 2016 under similar circumstances.
All three victims had appointments with their killers. All three were robbed and all three were strangled. The police investigation uncovered nine more similar murders between 2012 and 2016.
Zak Valentine, a family friend of the Steyns, had seemed nonchalant in court, his head shaved bald and smiling at everyone around him. Cecilia Steyn, a friend of Le Roux’s mother, for her part looked aghast as one shocking accusation after another was levelled at her.
Le Roux’s sister, Marcel, had sat expressionless, avoiding eye contact with him.
It was clear from the start Le Roux had an axe to grind with Cecilia, alleged mastermind behind the murders and leader of the group.
Cecilia, who’s called herself a 42nd generation witch, may not have done the dirty work herself, but her name kept popping up during his testimony. Le Roux kept referring to her as the instigator behind the murders.
He also testified that they’d called her only by the letter of her name, C, because she’d told them that saying her full name would summon demons.
One of the most gruesome parts in Le Roux’s testimony was when he described Kevin McAlpine’s murder. Though he’d been the one to strangle Kevin, he says his mother, Marinda Steyn (51), and Cecilia had ordered him to do it.
“I strangled Kevin, like I did Anthony,” Le Roux testified. “After the first murder I discarded the murder weapon. I didn’t have one anymore and had to make a new one. I threw Anthony’s rope in a drain somewhere and Kevin’s I burned. After finishing Kevin my mother went down to fetch C [in her flat]. C came up to the flat and she even gave him [Kevin] a kick.”
Kezia, Kevin’s wife who’d been seven months pregnant at the time of his murder, sobbed in court when she heard how the killers had treated Kevin’s body. Anthony’s wife, Heather, also cried in court.
Where did it all start?
The state prosecution alleges the group, who call themselves Electus per Deus (Chosen by God), had operated as an organised crime syndicate (or gang) between 2012 and 2016. Marinda, Cecilia, Zak, his wife, Mikeila (who was also murdered), and Marinda’s two children, Marcel and Le Roux, were the founding members. Johan Barnard later joined them.
On 16 May this year Le Roux had reached a plea deal with the state and turned state witness. His 35-year jail sentenced had been reduced by 10 years, provided he testified against his co-accused.
On the same day Le Roux’s mother, Marinda, was sentenced to 11 life sentences in prison after she plead guilty – but without implicating her daughter, Marcel, and friend Cecilia.
It’s safe to say Le Roux didn’t hold back in his testimony on Tuesday and Wednesday. John Barnard, who’d plead guilty in December 2016 and is serving a 20-year jail sentence, had in his plea statement confirmed almost everything Le Roux said on the stand.
The 32 charges against the remaining three include 11 murder charges, charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, the possession of an arsenal of illegal weapons, and fraud.
The atmosphere in court was intense on Tuesday as each of the remaining accused stood up in court and pleaded “not guilty” to each of the charges.
“I have goose bumps!” one of the family members seated behind YOU said out loud when Zak – who’d allegedly even faked his own death, only to return like a veritable Lazarus from the grave – denied all the charges against him.
Advocate Gerrit Roberts SC, for the state, in his opening statement said the state would prove the accused had made themselves guilty of racketeering.
This form of organised crime whereby they created an “enterprise” for their own financial gain is one of the hardest motives to prove in court.
Roberts said the various murders could be divided into two phases.
The first was the so-called “occult” phase, during which Cecilia had the murders committed on her behalf out of revenge. The second phase was targeting people with “means” for financial gain in order for Cecilia to profit.
Le Roux testified the modus operandi in the last three murders had been basically the same. He said the motive had been to financially benefit Cecilia.
According to him she’d had various stories about why she needed the money.
One reason she offered was that she had to see a psychologist weekly at a cost of R5 000. Cecilia also told them she’d had to help a woman who’d escaped Satanism – this woman had allegedly called Cecilia and needed R23 000 to pay back the Satanist church she’d stolen the money from.
Le Roux testified he only later realised Cecilia had been lying.
Le Roux talked about how he had to phone Anthony and Kevin and make appointments to meet them in a restaurant in the Key West shopping centre in the north of Krugersdorp. But both times he’d phone the victims minutes before the appointment, telling them he couldn’t make it any more and asking them to rather come to his flat.
He described how he’d gone downstairs each time to meet Kevin and Anthony at their cars. His mother opened the door and offered them coffee.
Once they were inside, she aimed a .38 special revolver at them and ordered them to lie down. Then Le Roux tied them up with cable ties and later strangled them after they demanded their pin numbers and Marcel and John had made successful withdrawals from an ATM.
Marinda was the one who’d duped the third victim, Hanlé Lategan. Hanlé had duly arrived at the Cosanna apartment block near the Netcare hospital in Krugersdorp. Marinda and John lived in No 17 in the block. Le Roux and Marcel had lived with Cecilia and her family in the same building on the ground floor in nr.1.
Le Roux testified the reason for the subterfuge was because when you make an appointment with a professional – such as a broker or estate agent – they generally jot down the time and place of the meeting in their diary. By misleading them at the last minute, police would have a smaller chance of tracing the victims’ movements to the gang.
He went on to testify how the victims’ bodies had been disposed of. Both Anthony and Kevin were left in the boot of their car with the key still in the ignition. Anthony’s car was abandoned outside a primary school in Premier Street, while Kevin’s car was lost in Sivewright Street – an area notorious for its drugs and prostitution.
They reckoned the car, body and all, was more likely to be stolen there.When he started talking about how it had all started, Le Roux looked straight at Cecilia. He, his mother and sister met Cecilia, a former “Satanist” and “witch”, in 2008.
Ria Grunewald, founding member and leader of Overcomers Through Christ (OTC), a ministry aimed at informing people about Satanism, was their neighbour at the time. Cecilia and Zak were involved with the OTC.
Around 2011 Le Roux and his family moved to the Cosanna apartment block to be closer to Cecilia, who was “sickly”.
The relationship between Ria and Cecilia had started going pear-shaped and in July 2012 Cecilia, Zak, his wife Mikeila, and Marinda had broken away from OTC and started their own ministry, Electus per Deus (Chosen by God). They even got matching tattoos of a symbol related to their ministry.
The timeline of the murders according to Le Roux and the state
26 July 2012:
The motive was revenge on Ria Grunewald. In the months leading up to the murders home-made bombs were thrown at several of the OTC members’ cars. Le Roux apparently recognised one of the damaged cars as belonging to Natacha Burger (33). Natacha was an OTC member and close friend of Ria’s. She presented the course Know They Enemy.
The first murder victims were Natacha and her neighbour, Joy Boonzaier (63).
Le Roux testified how they’d gone to Natacha’s apartment complex in Centurion to scout where she lived and what her movements were. Le Roux said his mother and Zak murdered Natacha and Joy on 26 July 2012. Mikeila had also been at the scene and fled the house in shock after the murders.
13 Augustus 2012:
According to Le Roux the next victim was Pastor Reg Bendixen. Reg had been a friend of Ria’s and a guest speaker at the OTC from time to time. Le Roux testified Cecilia’s had given his mother, Marinda, and Zak police uniforms from her husband’s closet. The two showed up at Reg’s home in Northwold, Randburg, wearing wigs and police uniforms and armed with a knife and an axe.
4 October 2012:
Mikeila announced she was done with the group, she wanted out. Le Roux testified Cecilia had made it clear that Mikeila had become a liability. Zak allegedly gave Mikeila medicine, after which Marinda and Marcel had stabbed her to death in her bed in her and Zak’s home in the Sunset View complex in Ruimsig, on the West Rand.
Le Roux explained there’d been a lot of planning involved in the next murder. They’d initially planned on murdering Ria’s son too but when one of Zak’s friends who was going to be an accomplice disappeared, the plan was shelved.
Le Roux said Cecilia feared the friend’s disappearance was an indication the police were investigating the 2012 murders and she’d ordered them to “lay low’. But money became an issue and that’s when they decided to target people whom they could rob.
26 November 2015:
John suggest they target his employers, Peter (51) and Joan Meyer (47). Zak, Marcel and Marinda go to the couple’s house but when they realise there’s no money in the safe, they stab their victims to death.
Le Roux says Cecilia wasn’t happy at all with the R700 cash, cellphone and wallet with useless bank cards they brought her
16 December 2015:
Meanwhile, the plan is brewing to fake Zak’s death. A life insurance policy of more than R3,5 million is taken out in his name.
Le Roux testified in detail how they had to find a victim of more or less Zak’s age, build and height. The hapless victim was Jarod Jackson (41), a street vendor who’d regularly sold snacks near the Cosanna flats.
The gang had alleged afterwards that Zak had died in a car crash while on his way to the Free State for a weekend. They had to tell Jarod a tall tale to get him to go with Zak. Zak and Jarod had been in the front, in Zak’s BMW, while Le Roux had been seated on the passenger seat behind Jarod.
Marinda and John followed in Zak’s other car, a Mercedes SLK. Le Roux admitted to giving Jarod juice with sleeping tablets mixed into it – Cecilia had taken the tablets from her box of medicines. He alleges they’d ground the tablets together and mixed it into the juice.
Near Petrus Steyn in the Free State the sleeping tablets kicked in and Le Roux strangled him. They put Jarod in the Mercedes, poured paraffin over it and lit it. Then they all drove back to Krugersdorp.
In the following week Marinda and Cecilia’s brother-in law “identified Zak’s body” in the mortuary of the nearby town Bethlehem and a death certificate was issued. But Zak’s policy didn’t pay out, so everyone was still broke, Le Roux testified.
26 January 2016:
John suggested the next victim should be Glen McGregor (57), an accountant. Marcel, Le Roux and Marinda visited Glen’s smallholding pretending to ask for help with Marinda’s taxes. But Marinda shot him and transferred R6 000 from his account to hers before Le Roux finished the job by strangling Glen.
Le Roux and Marcel half carried, half dragged Glen,who was a large man, to the bathroom, put his body in the bath and opened the taps. Even now there hadn’t been any arrests.
10 – 30 May 2016:
Anthony Scholefield, Kevin McAlpine and Hanlé Lategan respectively are lured to the Cosanna flats, where they’re forced to hand over their banking PIN numbers. Le Roux testified how each time his sister made a successful withdrawal, Marinda would tell them to finish what they’d started. But he looked straight at Cecilia when he talked about how he’d used Anthony’s money to buy her a black and red jacket. He pointed at her when he said, “She’s worn that jacket in this very court.”
The arsenal of weapons they’d found in Marinda’s flat after Le Roux’s arrest was on display in court as evidence. It includes a .38 special revolver used to subdue and threaten the victims, as well as the 9mm pistol used to shoot Glen.
According to Le Roux, after the last murder Cecilia had been insisting he take out a life insurance policy in his name. Le Roux, who’d by that stage indicated he wanted to leave the group, later realised unlike Zak, his death probably wouldn’t have been faked. He most probably would’ve become the next victim.
*The trial continues.