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Killers of homeless man ‘saw vagrants as threats’

Three men who, as teenagers, beat to death a homeless man sleeping on church premises two years ago, saw vagrants as a threat to their neighbourhood, the Bellville Regional Court heard on Tuesday.

This was according to Pretoria criminologist Dr Irma Labuschagne, who testified on behalf of the men who are to be sentenced on a charge of culpable homicide.

Before magistrate Johann Swanepoel are Ruan Pieter Maritz, now 21, and his friends Dewald Herman Smith and Benjamin Garth Montague-Fryer, now both 21.

They are to be sentenced for beating to death homeless bricklayer Johan Thomas as he lay sleeping with his common-law wife, Rosie Plaatjies, at the Dutch Reformed Church in Ridgeworth.

Labuschagne handed to the court a 51-page report, but added: ”I did not complete this report to make an excuse for these three young men, or to get them a lenient sentence.”

Of utmost importance for the court to consider was the fact that the attack happened during their adolescence, she said.

She said none of the three accused had any history of liquor or drug abuse. All three had had good, balanced adolescence and came from good families.

The attack happened after the three had been partying together on a Friday night, drinking brandy and wine and discussing how they could rid their neighbourhood of vagrants.

Labuschagne told the court the three accused considered homeless people a nuisance group that threatened security and did not belong there.

She told the court that the term ”bergies” (a derogatory term used mainly for homeless people in Cape Town) was unknown in Gauteng and when she learnt that the three men were charged with killing a bergie, she phoned to ask them what a bergie was.

She told the court: ”In their replies, not one of them referred to race. They spoke of homeless people who dug into refuse bins, begged and generally made a nuisance of themselves.”

The hearing was postponed to December 11. — Sapa

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