Great-gran's slaying leads cops to serial killer suspects
Cops connect dots between killings of elderly women in Mpumalanga and Gauteng before nabbing pair
A murder trail recorded in Mpumalanga and Gauteng has left police investigating the possibility that they are dealing with a pair of serial killers, preying on elderly women.
Three months and four bodies later, Johnny du Plooy, 26, and Shaun Oosthuizen, 38, from Munsieville on Gauteng’s West Rand were finally arrested back in their home town.
Police have positively linked the two to the murder of 86-year-old Engela van Wyk who was found killed on June 24 at Rus ’n Bietjie Retirement Village in Springs, east of Johannesburg.
In all the cases the same modus operandi was used: overpowering the aged women and stuffing their mouths with a cloth before tying them up and making off with small items that are easy to transport and sell.
Van Wyk’s son-in-law, Phillip Brand, told Times Select she was found dead in her bedroom. “Her hands and legs were tied. A cloth was also stuffed down her throat. Her cellphone and jewellery were also stolen.”
The murder had left them with too many questions. “Why did they murder her? Why didn’t they just take the stuff and leave her?”
No large items had been stolen. “You can see that they just wanted to take small things that they could put in their pockets.”
Brand described Van Wyk as a loving person. “She looked after everyone and was a very strong woman. She also visited and prayed for fellow pensioners at the old-age home where she lived.”
Van Wyk’s murderers robbed her of an opportunity to meet two of her great-grandchildren, who were born after her death. “She looked forward to welcoming and holding the new babies; unfortunately she was killed before they were born.
“She loved knitting and the babies received their presents (jerseys and boots) when they were born,” Brand said, sobbing.
His wife Elna was finding it hard to accept her mother’s death. “They were very close. She visited her every day.”
Van Wyk had five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Police only managed to start putting the puzzle together after the murder of Hetta Potgieter, 85, of Mbombela in Mpumalanga just weeks later, on July 1.
A call from the Gauteng police to their counterparts in Mpumalanga helped connect the dots in the Van Wyk and Potgieter murders.
According to police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Erhard Stroh, Potgieter’s body was found on her bathroom floor at a retirement village where she lived, with her hands tied. The killers allegedly asked for water, and when she opened her door they forced their way in.
Stroh said the two men were out on R2,000 bail in Potgieter’s murder case.
“I opposed bail because I had a feeling these guys would commit more crimes. It was very strange to me that these suspects would just come to a strange province where they had no family or relatives, and commit this kind of crime.”
It was only after they were released on bail that the link to the Springs murder was established.
Stroh said he arrested the two, together with a third female suspect – who is also from Munsieville but not linked to the Gauteng murders – in Magaliesburg, following an intense search. He said it was easy to link the suspects to the murder because one of them, Oosthuizen, had previous convictions.
Now police are investigating if the duo can be linked to the murder of 77-year-old Lillas Jane Merry of Roodepoort, west of Johannesburg, who was killed on August 20. She shared a flat with her son in Honeyhills.
The suspects took R500 in cash, three cellphones and some jewellery.
“It was a senseless killing and she didn’t have to die for such small things,” her eldest daughter, Vivienne Pearson, 57, told Times Select.
“My mother is a woman who didn’t have much. She relied mostly on her family for financial assistance.
“My brother found her on top of her bed, with her hands tied. Her mouth was also stuffed with some cloth and also taped,” Pearson explained.
She said the death was a great shock for them as a family. “Although she was old she was still healthy and we never expected her to die so soon and in such a senseless way.”
Her mother had been looking forward to the wedding of one of her grandchildren on September 29. “She was preparing for the wedding and kept on wondering what she will wear on the wedding day.
“She was also looking forward to seeing her great-grandchild grow, who was just six weeks old when Merry was murdered.”
On September 1, the murder spree continued in Alberton, south of Johannesburg.
Captain André de Jager from the Ekurhuleni West Cluster Trio Task Team confirmed the two were linked to the murder of the 74-year-old woman at a retirement village. They were arrested on September 6 in Munsieville, thanks to the information Stroh provided.
They are expected to appear at the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on September 20 for a formal bail application.