Wednesday, 28 March 2007

'He leapt at her like a tiger'

28/03/2007 08:07 - (SA)

Buks Viljoen, Beeld

Secunda - A 10-year-old girl testified in court how she saw an armed man kill an elderly relative.

The girl told how after the murder, the 72-year-old woman's cellphone started ringing and when she answered it, she heard her father's voice, telling her to hide until help arrived.

The girl was testifying in the circuit court in the murder case of Sylvia Barkhuizen, 72.

Barkhuizen was shot dead in an attack at her farm Kruisement near Leslie in Mpumalanga on July 7 last year, shortly after she and the girl had returned from town.

She was hit in the stomach and died at the scene.

Girl called attacker by his name

Twenty-six-year old Ephriam Kheswa, who worked at the farm for six years, appeared in court in leg-irons.

On Monday, he pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and robbery with extenuating circumstances. He said he had not fired on purpose.

The prosecutor, advocate Johan Kruger, said the girl was receiving counselling since the murder, and was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress.

He said she would not testify in open court if she saw the accused. Judge John Murphy agreed that she could give evidence on closed-circuit television.

The girl testified that she heard a noise in the garage, but thought it was a snake.

The accused, whom she referred to by his name throughout her evidence, came running out of the garage and attacked Barkhuizen.

"He leapt at her like a tiger. I screamed for someone to come and help," she testified softly while she drew in a colouring book.

The accused had grabbed the girl and forced her mouth closed.

"When she (Barkhuizen) shouted at him to leave me, he shot at her and she fell."

Kheswa had apparently told the girl to lie down on the ground.

"When I looked at him, he pointed the gun at me. I thought he was going to shoot me too."

He fled and climbed over the barbed wire fence.

"I just walked in circles and thought "She's dead, she's dead!" the girl said.

Attacker came back

She phoned her father, who was on holiday in Durban. When the accused saw her talking on the cellphone, he climbed back over the fence.

"I walked to him and held out my cellphone: 'Take my cellphone rather than my life'," she testified.

He slapped and choked her because she had dropped her phone, then he disappeared into the dark.

The girl testified that she had heard Barkhuizen's phone ring.

She knelt next to the body and answered it. Her father told her to hide in the bakkie until help arrived.

Captain David Pieterse, a ballistics expert, said the accused's version, that he shot Barkhuizen during a struggle, was not possible.

"There were no powder burn marks on the clothes or the body. Therefore, the shot must have come from further than a metre away."

The case would continue on Wednesday.


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