South Africa: Stompiesfontein Murder - Investigating Officer Describes Farmworker's Last Hours

Doctor Masilela was returning from a traditional ceremony with two friends on the evening of June 17 when he decided to take a shortcut through Stompiesfontein farm to get home. It was a shortcut that would cost him his life.

This was the testimony of the investigating officer during the bail application of Garry Wiblin and Dennis Grose in the Delmas Regional Court on Wednesday.

Wiblin, 36, and co-accused Dennis Grose, 67 - who is the father of Wiblin's fiancé - have been charged with murdering Masilela on the Mpumalanga farm.

Deadly shortcut

Colonel Difaga Molope testified that Masilela and two friends had attended a traditional ceremony in Endicott. Masilela and one of his friends were inebriated and walking home on foot.

They decided to cut through Stompiesfontein to get to another farm in Wolvefontein.

"The shortcut through Stompiesfontein farm would have taken them to Wolvefontein farm, where the deceased lived," Molope told the court.

While the three men were walking on the farm, they saw a vehicle approaching, which was switching its headlights on and off.

As the vehicle got closer, the three men started running away. According to Molope, one of the men managed to flee, while Masilela and the second man tried to hide in the field.

At this point, Stompiesfontein farm manager Dawie Lecordeur hit Masilela with his Toyota Hilux Bakkie, injuring him.

Lecordeur then put the injured Masilela onto the back of his bakkie and called for backup to find the second person he had spotted between the crops.

Assaulted and shot

Backup arrived in the form of Wiblin, Grose and a man named Andre Strauss, who are all part of the Rural Safety Corps. Another farmer named Driaan Barnard also arrived on the scene.

According to the State, Wiblin helped Masilela get off Lecordeur's bakkie and started punching him, and Grose joined in. When Masilela went to the ground, the pair proceeded to kick him.

At this point, Lecordeur, Strauss and Barnard found Masilela's friend, still hiding among the bean crops.

While Wiblin and Grose were alone with Masilela, the State contends that Wiblin shot the injured man in the head.

As Wiblin and Grose left the scene, Stompiesfontein farm owner Flipper van der Walt arrived on scene and drove towards where Masilela's friend was being held by Lecordeur, Strauss and Barnard.

Despite having no eyewitness to the next events, the State alleges that Wiblin and Grose must have loaded Masilela's body onto Wiblin's bakkie before driving off.

Masilela's body was then thrown over a bridge onto the N17, about 40km away from the farm, Molope testified.

Around 22:30, a Volkswagen Polo with four occupants hit the body of Masilela and overturned. Everyone in the vehicle survived and they were taken to a hospital in Heidelberg.

Missing person case and community intervention

Police arrived on the scene, where Masilela was declared dead and a case of culpable homicide was opened. The first autopsy concluded that Masilela's cause of death was as a result of the Polo driving over him.

Masilela's family opened a missing person's case later in June and, according to the State, no one approached the police about the incident on the farm initially.

Molope also told the court that the community had taken matters into their own hands after a worker on Stompiesfontein farm informed them about what Lecordeur had done. He testified that Lecordeur had told the worker that he had hit someone with his bakkie on the farm.

In July, the community approached Lecordeur, and threatened to set him on fire if he didn't tell them what had transpired. Lecordeur made a confession and was handed over to police by the community.

A second autopsy was done after the new information emerged. This time the cause of death stated that Masilela had died as a result of a gunshot wound to the head.

Lecordeur was initially arrested and charged with Wiblin, but later turned State witness and had the charges against him dropped. Grose was arrested in August, while attending Wiblin's court appearance.

Accused's version

Both Wiblin and Grose deny killing Masilela. They contend that, after Wiblin helped Masilela off the bakkie, he ran away. Soon after that, the pair left the scene.

During the bail application on Wednesday, defence attorney Mike van As pointed out inconsistencies in the witness statements of Lecordeur.

In Lecordeur's warning statement, he said he had heard a gunshot and that, when he turned around, he had seen Wiblin with a firearm in his hand. But in his Section 204 witness statement, he contends that he saw Wiblin shoot Masilela between the eyes.

"Lecordeur made these statements, implicating the two accused to exonerate himself, to shift the blame," Van As said.

Wiblin also told the court that affidavits by Lecordeur and Strauss were incorrect and that they were lying, inferring that they wanted to lay the blame on someone else.

Furthermore, both Wiblin and Grose testified that it was Lecordeur who assaulted Masilela.

The bail application is expected back in court on Friday, where both the defence and State will wrap up their legal arguments.

Source: News24

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