May 13 2009 at 09:30AM
By Caryn Dolley
She had been so frail and weak, she was unable to walk far.
This is how Gerrit Skitter described his last visit with his mother-in-law, Johanna Retief van Aarde, 79, about three months before she was bludgeoned to death in her Gordon's Bay home on May 21 three years ago.
Skitter on Monday testified in the Western Cape High Court in the trial of nine men accused of breaking into Van Aarde's home, murdering her and then breaking into a neighbouring home.
There, they allegedly held four people at gunpoint, including a five months' pregnant woman, who was raped.
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Luyanda Zaza, Simon Lolo, Mzamu Ncwana, Thembile Ngxowe, Siyathemba Tshanyela, Lungile Mayo, Thomas Baraza, Vuyile Msaseni and Siyabonga Zanzele face charges of housebreaking, robbery with aggravating circumstances and murder.
Zanzele also faces a rape charge.
On Tuesday Skitter, who arrived from Britain, was called as a state witness.
He said about three months before Van Aarde's murder, he and his wife had moved to Britain.
When prosecutor Lenro Badenhorst questioned him about Van Aarde's physical strength, he said she had been frail.
"She could walk but she couldn't walk for very long distances. She was weak," he said.
He said his mother-in-law had lived alone and, before he and his wife had emigrated, they had visited her nearly every day.
Skitter identified her home using photographs and pointed out the windows where he had installed burglar bars.
Before he was called as a witness, a police constable, John Pieterse, had been cross-examined about the arrests of four of the suspects.
He said the four had been arrested in the Gordon's Bay area the night of the robberies, when police officers had seen them running away and found them hiding in bushes.
Pieterse, who saw the arrests but was not involved in them, said it had been dark and he had not been able to clearly see their faces.
When the four were in the Gordon's Bay police station before being taken to the holding cells, Pieterse had then got a better look at them.
However, one of the accused who Pieterse said was arrested that night, Thembile Ngxowe, said he had seen Pieterse for the first time when the constable was called as a witness in court on Monday.
Pieterse said this was "impossible".
This article was originally published on page 4 of Cape Times on May 13, 2009