17 March 2005

Namibia: Massacre Victims' Son Arrested

Windhoek — THE investigation into Namibia's worst post-Independence mass murder case took a surprise twist on Tuesday evening, when the Police arrested the son of the slain Erasmus couple as a co-suspect in the killing of his parents and six other people.

It could, however, be that the latest arrest is based only on the say-so of self-confessed mass killer Sylvester Beukes (22), the young man who has admitted that he killed eight people at the farm Kareeboomkolk in the Kalkrand area on March 5, it appeared yesterday.

Justus Christiaan ('Shorty') Erasmus, the 27-year-old son of murder victims Justus and Elzabé Erasmus, was arrested in Windhoek at about 21h00 on Tuesday, the Commanding Officer of the Namibian Police's Public Relations and Liaison Division, Chief Inspector Hieronymus Goraseb, announced yesterday.

The arrest was prompted by allegations that Beukes, one of the two previously arrested suspects in the case, made under oath to the Police, Goraseb said.

He said Beukes had claimed that the young Erasmus had hired him to kill his parents.

Also killed at Kareeboomkolk, the Erasmus couple's farm some 50 kilometres south of Rehoboth, were the farm foreman, Sonnyboy Swartbooi (35), his pregnant wife, Hilma Engelbrecht (32), their six-year-old daughter, Christina Engelbrecht, Settie Swartbooi (50), Deon Gertze (18) and four-year-old Regina Gertze.

All of them were shot dead execution-style.

The bodies of five of the victims were set alight in an outbuilding after petrol had been poured over them.

It is suspected that the murder weapons were stolen from the farmhouse when Beukes broke into the dwelling earlier on the day of the massacre.

The Erasmus couple were shot dead after Beukes - according to what he said in the Mariental Magistrate's Court on Wednesday last week - had forced the farm foreman to phone them in Windhoek to summon them to the farm on the pretext that a seriously ill worker needed their help.

With eight people dead, Beukes and his elder brother, Gavin Beukes, left the farm in a bakkie belonging to the Erasmus couple.

They allegedly also stole a large number of livestock and a hoard of household goods.

Gavin Beukes was also present, but denied having had a hand in the murders.

Both brothers were arrested on the evening of the day after the massacre.

Indications from the Mariental Magistrate's Court yesterday were that Erasmus might apply for bail before the weekend.

During his first appearance, Erasmus, who was represented by lawyer Petrie Theron, was not asked to plead to the charges that he and the brothers now face together.

Yesterday, Public Prosecutor Anita Meyer asked Assistant Magistrate Ria Bekker to join Erasmus to the case against the brothers.

Erasmus was ordered to remain in Police custody while his case was postponed for further investigation to April 22, when the Beukes brothers also have to appear in court again.

Sylvester Beukes's accusation that Erasmus was the instigator was not mentioned when Beukes gave an extensive account of his role in the massacre during his and his brother's first appearance in court last Wednesday.

He said then that his motive had been revenge, since he felt he had been mistreated and insulted by Erasmus Senior when he was employed by the farmer.

The other victims were shot dead because he did not want to leave any witnesses behind, Beukes said.

He told the court that he alone was responsible for the killings.

However when Beukes and investigators revisited the crime scene, he made a statement to the Police implicating Erasmus Jr.

"Right now we have not much more than his statement under oath," Goraseb said in reference to Beukes's new version of events.

He added that Erasmus was arrested on the authority of a warrant of arrest issued by a Magistrate.

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