Murder-accused farmer tried to run over farmworker, court hears
Farmer and murder accused Martin Visser used a bakkie to try and run over farmworker Adam Pieterse to intimidate him into not laying an assault charge, a State witness has testified.
However, Pieterse still reported Visser to the police after he was attacked one Sunday, Pieterse's friend, Patrick "Oom Grom" Klein, said. Klein is also one of two farmworkers who claim that Visser has forced them into digging the farmworker's grave.
He could not recall the date but insisted that it was a Sunday.
Klein was testifying on Tuesday in the Western Cape High Court, sitting in Vredendal.
He testified that Pieterse, or "Mannetjie Dukvreet" as he was known, had gone to Visser's house to buy wine on credit.
He said he stood at the nearby farm houses and that Pieterse had been carrying Klein's three-year-old daughter when he went to make his purchase.
Klein claimed he witnessed Visser use his fists to beat Pieterse and sit on him on the ground at one point, while he hit him.
A neighbour had ostensibly gone to collect the child when she saw the assault unfolding.
Klein said Pieterse managed to escape and ran up the hill, while Visser followed on his motorcycle.
"Mannetjie ran into the vineyard. Martin told us to go to our houses before he bliksemmed (beat) us too," the unemployed farm worker testified.
Pieterse worked for a neighbouring farmer, and his house was situated on the border of Visser's smallholding, Dassieshoek.
Klein said Pieterse's employer emerged and told Visser to leave the man alone.
Visser then left.
Pieterse had gone to lay a charge at the Lutzville police station but was told to return the next day.
"He was on his way the Monday and Martin saw him. He wanted to run him over with the bakkie.
"He cornered him at a wall. But Mannetjie escaped and ran through Martin's vineyard… until he got to the tar road."
Visser is accused of killing Pieterse by using a spade to beat him in his home in February 2015.
Klein claimed to have witnessed the assault when he and another farmworker, Frans Klaase, were drinking at Pieterse's house.
While they drank in the kitchen area, Visser allegedly stormed in holding the green and yellow spade and started hitting their friend.
He said Pieterse ran into the bedroom and Visser followed, where he heard him tell the farmworker that, if he didn't withdraw the case against him, he would beat him to death.
Pieterse screamed and shouted for Visser to leave him alone until his voice "went quiet", Klein said.
The witness claimed that he and Klaase did not try to intervene during the attack because they were too afraid.
He says they were ordered to help Visser put Pieterse onto the back of the quad bike and drove to the back of Martin's father's farm, De Hoek, where they were ordered to dig a grave behind the vineyard where dead animals were usually dumped.
Police discovered Pieterse's remains three weeks later after farmworkers apparently saw Visser at the spot and noticed flies buzzing around the disturbed earth. His body had been in an advanced stage of decomposition, which affected the confirmation of the cause of his death.
Neither Klein nor Klaase spoke about what had happened, both testified, until they were approached by police a year and a half after the murder.
He initially denied having any knowledge of the incident, but later gave his version of events to police.
He was later accepted into the witness protection programme after giving his statement to the authorities.
Klein left the programme nine months later because he and his partner missed their loved ones.
On his return to Lutzville, he again worked for Visser's father.
He later made a sworn statement and claimed his police statement was untrue and that the investigating officer had assaulted him and forced him to tell this story.
Klein testified that Visser's father and brother-in-law had forced him to make this claim.
"I didn't have a place to stay. I don't have people. And my children… who would look after them if I didn’t have a job?"
He said Visser's brother-in-law had taken him to the police station and told him to make a case against the warrant officer.
Two police officers as well as the control prosecutor declined to take his case.
He was sent back with a driver the next day to go on his own to make the case and to tell police he was there of his own free will, Klein said.
The police took the case.
Klein later consulted the prosecutor and made another statement to the police, saying his assault claim had been untrue as well as the reason for it.
The Vissers were later sent a copy of the statement by the defence team, Klein said, and Visser's father Chris in February told him to leave his farm.
He has been jobless since.
He claimed Visser's brother-in-law had told him to get Visser out of jail, but Klein said he had responded "if he did it, he did it".
He was also secretly recorded reciting what he had been told to say, he claimed.
Visser has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm and four charges of common assault of three other people.
Klein was expected to be cross-examined on Wednesday.