Satanic murder witnesses ‘will live with scars’
This is a case of religious manipulation, deceit and lies, says prosecutor
Many of the witnesses in the Krugersdorp murder trial will live with emotional and psychological scars for the rest of their lives, the High Court in Johannesburg heard on Thursday.
“This is a case of religious manipulation, deceit and lies, which led to the brutal killing of 11 innocent people.
“The lives of various witnesses were impacted to such an extent that they had to disappear and start new lives at different places,” prosecutor Gerrit Roberts SC told the court in closing arguments.
Roberts said some had also suffered severe financial setbacks and their lives were turned upside down.
“Ria Grunewald [leader of the Overcomers Through Christ] even went as far as stating that she was for all practical purposes dead and therefore had to assume a new identity. The ramifications of this case on the lives of many people are difficult to gauge.”
This was revealed in the trial of Cecilia Steyn, Zak Valentine and Marcel Steyn, who have pleaded not guilty to 32 counts, including murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, fraud and intimidation.Le Roux Steyn entered into a plea bargain with the state in 2018. Marinda Steyn has already been sentenced to 11 life terms.They were all part of the Electus Per Deus group, who believed they were “chosen by God”. The group allegedly killed 11 people between 2012 and 2016.
Roberts described the “mastermind” behind the group, Cecilia, as a “witch” and argued that everything in the case revolved around her.
“At the top was the mastermind Cecilia Steyn who received all the benefits and proceeds of the crimes, who was giving instructions to the subordinates and who made sure that she never dirtied her hands by becoming directly involved in the criminal activities of her subordinates,” he said.
Roberts argued at length that Cecilia was hellbent on getting revenge on Ria Grunewald.
Roberts told the court that before the rift between the two, Cecilia and Ria had been close friends. At one stage Ria had moved from Roodepoort to Krugersdorp to be closer to Cecilia.
“On Ria’s own admission, her whole life started revolving around Cecilia Steyn.”
Roberts said that on specific days determined by the satanic calendar, Ria and other members of her group would congregate in the early evenings at Cecilia’s flat.
The group would play gospel music throughout the evening. Cecilia’s bedroom would be sealed off with oil as a spiritual sign of protection.
A kudu horn would also be blown as part of a spiritual act or declaration.
The court heard that another accused, Zak Valentine, had put more than R2m into the “church” as a “blessing”.
Earlier on Thursday morning, Roberts described Cecilia’s flat as the “headquarters” where plans were made and instructions were given.
“It is submitted that this is a classic example of how a racketeering enterprise operates.”
Roberts said it was not strange that the group changed their modus operandi from revenge killings to obtaining money to sustain the mastermind’s lifestyle and pay her medical bills.
“The constant spiritual protection of Cecilia Steyn, under the guidance of Ria and with the help of various other individuals, essentially became a ministry on its own,” he said.
He told the court the group never questioned Cecilia because they believed in her.
“You don’t question the leader. She had strong convincing abilities to deceive. Once they started questioning, they left.
“If Ria was taken out of this equation, none of these offences would have been committed.”
Judge Ellem Francis told Roberts he found it fascinating that Marinda would go on a killing spree and afterwards return to Cecilia – but Cecilia knew nothing of the killings.
Roberts agreed. He said Prof Saayman, who testified at an earlier stage of the trial, described the murders as crimes of passion, indicating a personal feud against the deceased.
The matter continues on Friday.