Guesthouse owner Marie Verwey sustained 62 stab wounds while she was in her chair in her Paradyskloof home. But one of the people accused of the murder – the octogenarian’s home care nurse – denies knifing her.
Nicolize Geldenhuys started to cry in the witness stand of the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday, pinning the brutal knife attack solely on her co-accused.
She is on trial for armed robbery as well as the murder of the woman she affectionately called “Ma”. She has admitted to planning a heist but testified that killing Verwey was never part of the plan.
Verwey, 80, was killed at the Villa Merwe guesthouse in February last year. Her safe had been ransacked.
Co-accused Enrico “Darkie” Malherbe pleaded guilty to both charges and Andre “Zibby” Coetzee only admitted to the robbery. Both their pleas were rejected.
Geldenhuys’ co-accused are all alleged members of the 26s gang.
An alleged high-ranking member and his wife have also been implicated in the planning of the robbery and the selling of the loot. They have not yet been arrested.
Geldenhuys worked for the Verwey family since 2015, caring for the guesthouse owner’s husband. After his death, her services were no longer needed, until the family employed her to take care of Verwey a week before the murder.
She confessed to planning the robbery after seeing Verwey’s son Francois storing his mother’s jewellery, worth R750 000, in their safe.
She claimed Malherbe had diverted from their original plan to hold up Verwey and the domestic worker and escape with the valuables. According to her, he was the only one who stabbed Verwey.
But prosecutor Jacomiena Swart said the pathologist’s findings were that Verwey had been stabbed on both the left and right side of her body, pointing to the possibility of two attackers.
The stabbing was described as overkill, usually associated with an angry attacker who knew the victim.
“I didn’t stab her,” Geldenhuys maintained, despite Malherbe’s claims that she had.
She claimed to have been shocked and upset by the change in plan, but Swart countered that she had not behaved in an appropriate manner.
“You didn’t scream or cry for help,” she pointed out.
“You didn’t want help. It was the part of the plan that there be no witnesses to identify you.”
Swart also rubbished Geldenhuys’ claim that she was afraid of Malherbe and the alleged gang boss (who hasn’t been arrested yet), referring to video footage of a laughing Geldenhuys and her co-accused selling Verwey’s jewellery at a pawn shop.
She had also referred to a voice note she had sent the gangster – who was previously imprisoned for murder – where she told him that she had been taken in for questioning and that he should not worry about it as she had not told the authorities anything.
She also told him to buy a Cape Town newspaper when Verwey’s murder had made the front page.
“You weren’t scared of them – you know who you were getting involved with,” Swart said.
Geldenhuys said she did not know what to answer.
After concluding her testimony, both Hendricks and Malherbe elected not to testify.
Judge Mushtak Parker appeared unimpressed when Coetzee said he was too tired to testify on Tuesday, then claimed to have a headache.
He denied the request for a postponement until Thursday.
In the witness stand, Coetzee claimed he had accompanied Geldenhuys and Hendricks to Stellenbosch to “collect cupboards”, and that he had asked Malherbe to help.
He said Geldenhuys had gone into Verwey’s house and had returned to call Malherbe.
She later returned to open Verwey’s gates and Hendricks had moved the car to the driveway, he testified.
Geldenhuys and Malherbe had returned to the car with two bags and their clothes were spattered in blood, Coetzee said.
After the two returned to the house, Geldenhuys came to call him, he alleged.
“[Inside], I saw the miesies [Verwey] lying in her chair,” he said.
“I asked Nicole what was going on, we didn’t come for such things. She said she would explain it to me later.”
He said the safe had already been opened and Geldenhuys had been removing the valuables.
He helped her empty the safe before they left through the back door, Coetzee added.
It was agreed when they had arrived at the alleged gang leader’s house in Hanover Park that Coetzee would “staan vir die goud” (take responsibility for the loot taken in the robbery), while Malherbe would take responsibility for the murder, he testified.
“He said he would staan (stand) for the murder, but he didn’t stab alone,” Coetzee said.
Geldenhuys and Malherbe’s clothes were burnt because they were bloodied, he claimed.
The trial continues on Thursday.