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29 Nov 2007 17:00
Clutching an exam pad and diary, former bouncer Gary Beuthin took notes from almost the instant he stepped into the Randburg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
Wearing a grey and white T-shirt, blue tracksuit pants and shackles at his ankles, Beuthin seemed to scan the court for supporters as he walked in. However, no one in the gallery was willing to admit to being there for him.
He would not be applying for bail, his attorney Michael Werner told magistrate Fatima Khan, but reserved his rights to do so later.
Beuthin (42) is in the dock with Melanie van Niekerk (31)—who claims to be his fiancée—and “acquaintance” Warren Schertel (34), who provides nightclubs with bouncers.
The three are accused of attempted murder, armed robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping and possession of firearms and ammunition.
Van Niekerk and Schertel intend pleading not guilty, the court heard in applications for their release on bail.
In an affidavit, Van Niekerk submitted that her continued incarceration would have a “devastating effect on her life”. Apart from her life’s savings, it would cost her self-respect and result in hardship for herself and her family.
If Beuthin’s previous trials were anything to go by, it could take two years for the case to be finalised, she submitted, adding that while imprisoned there is a 30-minute limit on legal consultations.
She and Schertel promised the court they would not interfere with evidence or witnesses if released on bail, and contended that they pose no danger to the public.
In a separate affidavit, Schertel admitted to having a case pending against him in Alberton, but pointed out that he has always adhered to court orders. His advocate, Sog van Eck, told the court Schertel had handed himself over to the police on learning he was wanted. The court heard that Schertel is married with two children, and a sole breadwinner.
Opposing bail, state prosecutor Jacqueline Letsoalo called to the stand the lead investigator, Director Piet Byleveld, who testified that witnesses in the case fear for their lives. He was convinced Van Niekerk and Schertel would interfere with witnesses and considered them flight risks.
Relating to the court the events of the night of November 16, Byleveld testified that Edward Jacobs (43) contacted Van Niekerk in response to a newspaper advertisement, then went to her home. He paid another woman at the door and was led to a room where he was attacked by Beuthin, Van Niekerk and Schertel, demanding money they claimed he owed them.
Beuthin and Schertel beat him with a baseball bat, egged on by a swearing Van Niekerk.
Jacobs eventually told them he had money at his home in Wendywood. Although almost unable to walk, the trio made him drive them there.
They forced him to open the safe, which they emptied, also taking watches from a bedside table. Ignoring his pleas to be taken to hospital, they fled.
Jacobs’s injuries were so serious that he remains bedridden, Byleveld told the court.
He submitted that Schertel had held a gun to Jacobs’s head for the duration of the car ride and that the only reason he then handed himself in was because he was convinced to do so by the person who gave him refuge—and who “coincidentally” had been an informant for Byleveld for years.
The case against him in Alberton is drug-related.
Byleveld submitted that Van Niekerk also has a case pending against her—even though she claimed otherwise. In September, she and Beuthin stole a car, motorbike and helmets, among other things, from Van Niekerk’s 72-year-old former landlord in Margate, he testified.
At the time of their arrest, Van Niekerk and Beuthin were in a car packed with clothes and toiletries, suggesting they intended leaving Johannesburg, Byleveld continued.
A Tokarev pistol stolen from Jacobs was seized and Van Niekerk handed over his Rolex watch. Police also confiscated R130 000, which Van Niekerk and Beuthin might have intended using to leave the country.
“I believe the state has a strong case against all the accused,” Byleveld told the court.
The director of public prosecutions has indicated it is such a serious matter it might be transferred to the high court for trial, he testified.
The case was postponed until December 4 at the request of Riley, who told the court he needs to consult with his client about the Margate matter before he can cross-examine Byleveld.
Beuthin was released from prison on parole in June after serving 15 years of a 25-year sentence for kidnapping and assaulting his former girlfriend Jill Reeves.—Sapa
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