Sunday, 28 June 2009

Gardener in dock for couple's murder

June 22 2009 at 03:08PM

By Sherlissa Peters

The gardener of the couple whose bodies were found burnt beyond recognition last week is to appear in the Howick Magistrate's Court on Monday, charged with murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

The 23-year-old man was employed by Alan O'Neale and Hannetjie Blom for several months at their residence at 26 Vear Road, Merrivale.

Superintendent Henry Budhram said the motive for the murders was believed to be revenge, because the gardener was angry with the couple after a recent confrontation.

According to police, the couple had discovered that he had stolen a cellphone belonging to Blom.

Blom was believed to have told the gardener she would not press charges on condition that he returned the phone, which he did.

However, it was believed the gardener remained angry and held a grudge.

Sources indicated that two suspects gained entry through a window at the back of the house.

The window pane was carefully removed and the suspects were alleged to have drank beer in the house while they waited or the couple.

Blom was the first to arrive home and the suspects held her while waiting for O'Neale. The couple's hands and legs were bound.

Blood was found in their bedroom. Police believe there was a struggle before the pair were taken from their home.

Budhram said the pair were strangled before being taken to a thick, dense, bushy area at Beverly Farm, where their bodies were set alight.

The couple's charred bodies were still smouldering when they were found a day after the murder.

Blom's employer, Vicky Smith, said she was a sweet, caring person whose life had turned around for the better when she met O'Neale.

O'Neale's employer described the killing as a senseless crime and hoped the killers would be severely punished. "Nobody deserves to die like that," he said.

O'Neale, 57, and Blom, 40, married in April and their neighbours des-cribed them as an unassuming, happy couple.

Budhram said the identities of the couple were confirmed when one of the vehicles belonging to the couple's employers was found near the Dargle-Impendle T-junction, and the other on the N3 highway near Hilton.

Police said the first vehicle, a VW Jetta, was discovered at a time when they were unaware of the murders, and the second vehicle, a Jeep Cherokee, was discovered on the highway with a flat tyre.

O'Neale was said to have been burnt beyond recognition, while part of Blom's face could still be identified.

Police believe that after being killed at their home, the couple's bodies were loaded into the two vehicles and driven to the spot where they were burned.

Police are looking for a second suspect is under way.

This article was originally published on page 5 of Daily News on June 22, 2009


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