Beuthin witnesses 'fear for lives', says top cop

Witnesses in the attempted-murder trial of former bouncer Gary Beuthin fear for their lives, the Randburg Magistrate’s Court heard on Thursday.

Lead investigator Piet Byleveld was testifying during the bail applications of Beuthin’s co-accused, Melanie van Niekerk (31) and Warren Schertel (34). Beuthin, who is on parole, is not applying for bail.

Byleveld said both Van Niekerk and Schertel had tried to interfere with witnesses even before their arrest earlier this month. He also indicated that the director of public prosecutions expects the case to be referred to the high court for trial.

He believes that the state has a strong case and he told the court the accused would probably face long sentences if found guilty.

On the night of the incident, November 16, Edward Jacobs (43) responded to a newspaper advertisement and telephoned Van Niekerk, the court heard.
He went to a house in Morningside, northern Johannesburg, where she led him to a room.

In the room, Jacobs was confronted by Beuthin, Van Niekerk and Schertel. While Van Niekerk egged them on, Beuthin and Schertel beat Jacobs.

Although he could barely walk after being assaulted, the accused made Jacobs drive to his home in Wendywood, north of the city, where they forced him to open a safe. A large sum of money was removed and watches were taken from a side table.

Byleveld told the court he arrested Beuthin and Van Niekerk at an intersection in Sandton on November 19 in a car driven by Beuthin. The vehicle was packed with clothing and toiletries and it was clear they planned to leave Johannesburg—if not the country.

Byleveld told the court that Van Niekerk handed over to him a stolen Rolex watch. A total of R130 000 was also confiscated.

The police investigator further testified that Beuthin and Van Niekerk stole a motor vehicle, motorbike and helmets, among other items, from an elderly former landlord of Van Niekerk’s.

He submitted that Schertel faces a pending drug related-case in Alberton.

In an affidavit read to the court, Van Niekerk submitted that her continued incarceration at Johannesburg Prison would have a “punitive and devastating” effect on her life. She would lose all her life savings.

She contended that she is not a danger to the public and told the court she intends pleading not guilty. Since her arrest she has experienced constant diarrhoea, stomach cramps and dehydration.

She is engaged to Beuthin, Van Niekerk told the court.

In an affidavit read to the court on behalf of Schertel, he indicated that he too intends entering a not-guilty plea.

The three face charges of attempted murder, armed robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping and possession of firearms and ammunition.

Schertel undertook not to interfere with witnesses and to abide by any conditions of bail imposed by the court.

He submitted that he is his family’s sole breadwinner, responsible for all household expenditure incurred by his wife and two children. He told the court he had handed himself over to the police on learning that he was being sought.

However, Byleveld contended that Schertel had handed himself in only after he was convinced to do so by the person with whom he was hiding out and who, coincidentally, was a police informer.

The hearing continues.—Sapa

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