Samurai sword boy admits to murder

The 18-year-old boy accused of killing a fellow pupil with a sword pleaded guilty to all the charges against him in the Johannesburg High Court on Tuesday.

Dressed in a striped black shirt, black pants and a pair of takkies, Morne Harmse appeared before Judge Gerhardus Hattingh and pleaded guilty to murder and three counts of attempted murder. He will be sentenced on June 15.

On August 18, 2008, Harmse, brandishing a Samurai sword and wearing a mask, killed 16-year-old Jacques Pretorius at the Nic Diederichs Technical High School in Krugersdorp.

He also stabbed and injured another boy and two gardeners.

In an affidavit read to the court by his lawyer, Harmse said: “I admit that I, on the day in question, I unlawfully and intentionally killed Jacques Jacobus Pretorius by hitting or chopping him with a sword.”

He also admitted to attacking fellow pupil Stephanus Hendrik Antonie Bouwer and the two gardeners, Lesiba Samuel Manamela and Tsiamo Joseph Kodisang, by attacking them with a sword.

Harmse said there had often been talk between the boys in his group that they should do something to make an impression at the school to make the other children take notice of them.

“On Friday August 15, 2008, during the break, we talked about this again.

“They were all fired up about the plan and we discussed between us what each one would do, or bring.”

Harmse said he told his friends that he would wear a mask and bring a sword to school.

The sword was an ornamental sword his father had bought four or five years before the incident.

Harmse said Marco Fourie had said he would bring a “rolling bomb”.

“Max Brechlin said he would use one of my masks and a sword.”

On the day of the incident Marco had brought a bomb which turned out to be fake. Harmse said Marco also told him he had decided not to bring the guns.

“I met Max and he asked why I had the swords with me at school. I told him that we had planned that I would bring them to school. We all walked in the direction of the boys’ cloakrooms.

“In the cloakrooms, Max had put on one of the masks and picked up a sword. The bell rang and Max then took off the mask and put down the sword.

“Marco gave me the ‘bomb’ and said I mustn’t pull the wire, because it would explode. I stood a little way back and pulled the wire. Nothing happened and I threw the bomb down. Because the bell had rung, they all left,” he said.

A little while later, Max, Marco and a group of pupils came up to him and laughed at him.

“When another group of pupils walked past us, I unlawfully and intentionally, with one swing of the sword, struck at one of them [Jacques Pretorius].”

Immediately after Jacques fell to the ground, Harmse said he unlawfully and intentionally hit Bouwer, who was standing nearby, with the sword against his leg.

“He asked why I had done that and, without answering, I again swung the sword unlawfully and intentionally at him, hitting him on the left-hand side of his head.

“At this stage Lesiba Samuel Manamela and Tsiamo Joseph Kodisang came walking in our direction. I moved towards them and unlawfully and intentionally swung the sword in the direction of Lesiba and Tsiamo,” he said.

Harmse walked into the courtroom just before 10.30am and smiled at his family in the public gallery. His mother sobbed uncontrollably.

Some members of both the Pretorius and Harmse families, who sat in the front row, also burst into tears when they saw him.

Outside court, Jacques’ aunt, Leonie Pretorius, said the family was happy about Harmse’s plea because sitting listening in a trial to what had happened would have been more difficult for the family. She said Jacques’ mother was sad.

“Now that he has pleaded guilty, he will get what he deserves.”

Pretorius said the Harmse family had not apologised nor said anything to them about what their son had done.

Before going to the court’s holding cells, Harmse spoke to his father with a smile on his face. His father hugged him and his mother, crying, gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Morne is showing no remorse. He looks as if he doesn’t care about what he did. We are glad that he pleaded guilty, but whatever sentence he will get, will not bring back Jacques to his family,” Pretorius said.

The four swords and three masks Harmse was carrying on the day of the incident were brought into the courtroom by state counsel Gerrit Roberts.

Social workers will visit Harmse at the Johannesburg Prison for an interview as they are required to submit a pre-sentencing report to the court.—Sapa

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