WINDHOEK – Multi-murder convict, Gavin Beukes, succeeded in securing an appeal hearing that is now set for March 19.
Beukes and his brother Sylvester were found guilty on the murder of eight people, including a a pregnant woman and children on March 5, 2005 and the two were sentenced to a combined 670 years. Gavin, who the Judge President found to have acted with a common purpose with his brother, who admitted to the murders, was sentenced to 275 years. His sentence if calculated with the number of years to run concurrently comes to 84 years. Justus ‘Shorty’ Erasmus, the son of the owners of the Farm Kareeboomvloer, who were two of the casualties was eventually cleared by the Judge President after he was initially implicated by Sylvester Beukes as being the ‘mastermind’ behind the massacre. The victims of the massacre included the farm owners, 50-year-old Justus and Elzabé Erasmus, an employee of theirs, 35-five-year-old Sunnybooi Swartbooi, Swartbooi’s 32-year-old pregnant partner, Hilma Engelbrecht, their children, 6-year-old Christina Engelbrecht and 4-year-old Regina Gertze, Swartbooi’s brother, 50-year-old Settie Swartbooi and a relative of Hilma Engelbrecht, 18-year-old Deon Gertze. During sentencing, Judge President Damaseb described the murders as “particularly cruel and brutal” since five of the victims were set on fire after they were shot – although it was later established during the autopsy that some of them were still breathing when they were set alight.
Beukes will be represented by Advocate Winnie Christians during his appeal hearing on instructions of the Directorate of Legal Aid. Defence lawyer Titus Mbaeva appeared for Gavin Beukes during the trial, while Antonia Verhoef prosecuted. The grounds of Beukes’ appeal against the conviction are that Judge President Petrus Damaseb ‘erred’ and misdirected himself when he said he is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Beukes acted in common purpose with his brother Sylvester, and that he accepted that the State proved beyond reasonable doubt that all requirements for common purpose were present. Other grounds are that the Judge President ‘erred’ by holding that while there is only circumstantial evidence linking Beukes to the commission of the eight murders, the inferences drawn from proven facts are the only reasonable inferences that can be drawn and that these circumstantial facts were sufficient to prove that Beukes acted in common cause with his brother. Beukes further disputes the evidence of Dr Paul Ludik as expert evidence, since he merely explained the findings of the expert, Mr Robberts, with regard to the high velocity blood spatter discovered on the shoes worn by Beukes.
He also claims the Judge President ‘erred’ when he accepted the evidence of Dr Ludik as expert evidence when he gave his opinion with regard to the possibilities of tying a person to a chair, while holding such person at gunpoint which opinion merely amounts to the application of common sense by any ordinary member of the public. The grounds also include an alleged misdirection by the Judge President about a statement by Beukes that he did not kill any person, but merely dropped them which was ruled inadmissible. According to Beukes Judge President Damaseb further misdirected himself when he held that the alleged observations by the 16-year-old sister of Beukes within half an hour after his arrival at home sufficiently established that Beukes had ample opportunity to disassociate himself from the crimes and that the actions of Beukes was tantamount to the demeanour of a person with a guilty conscience. The grounds for appeal also include alleged misdirection by the Judge President when he imposed a sentence of 84 years “which is startlingly inappropriate and induces a sense of shock,” according to Beukes. Other grounds are that the Judge President misdirected himself when he held that the remorse expressed by Beukes was “tantamount to self-pity,” and was no basis for leniency towards him and was reason enough to disregard the principle of mercy completely. Other alleged misdirections on the part of the Judge President are that he disregarded the personal circumstances of Beukes and did not place enough emphasis on the court’s own finding that Beukes did not play any part in the initial planning of the offences and only came to associate himself with the actions of Sylvester at a later stage at the farm and that he overemphasised the seriousness of the offences as juxtaposed to the established factors in mitigation. It is also stated in the court papers that the Judge President ‘erred’ when he ‘expressly’ equated the actions of Sylvester to that of Gavin when he said that “he is the embodiment of evil, a menace to society, deserves no mercy from court and should be removed from society for a very long time” thereby overemphasising the nature of the offences
By Roland Routh