A severely burnt body found with tied hands and a bag over the head during a wildfire has been identified as that of the missing cancer sufferer Debbie Venter.
On Tuesday, her half-sister, Danieta van Rhyn, and her husband, Gert van Rhyn, both 39, appeared in the Bronkhorstspruit Magistrate’s Court on charges of murder and legal defamation.
These breakthroughs came after members of the Bronkhorstspruit police detective branch got a sniff at the time when Venter, 52, who had stage 4 cancer, was reported missing by Gert on May 29.
Venter had moved from the East Rand to the Van Rhyns in Bronkhorstspruit barely two months before, apparently for assistance with her illness.
At that stage, she weighed 42 kg and had to wear diapers for adults. On May 12, a large policy amount was paid to Venter, presumably to help with expenses due to her illness.
Two weeks later she apparently just drove away with her car.
On June 1, Danieta posted a half-dirty message on Venter’s Facebook page, mostly in capital letters, which reads: “DEBBIE IF YOU SEE THE MESSAGE ON YOUR WALL, PLEASE JUST REACT !!
THAT’S HOW IT CALLS NOT ACCEPTABLE THAT YOU SUPPORT, SUPPORT, SUPPORT, AND UNDERSTAND EVERYONE WHO LOVES YOU !!
WE ALL LOVE YOU SO MUCH !!!
PLEASE DO NOT LET ANYONE KNOW YOU ARE OK ??
OR ANSWER YOUR PHONE.
I PERSONALLY HAVE ALREADY MORE THAN 7 CALLS GET YOUR PHONE TO VOICEMail, OR YOU KILL PRESS ???
PLEASE MY SUSPENCE, I BIT YOU !! “
Then the Van Rhyn couple disappeared from Bronkhorstspruit.
Lt.kol. Solly Magongwa, branch commander of the Bronkhorstspruit Detective Service, said outside court on Tuesday. Gerda Tosen and Sergeant. Verusca Marais has been missing ever since Venter went missing.
They have the police dog unit, cybercrime unit tracking phones and the investigative psychology unit.
Meanwhile, on June 12 there was a wildfire in Lindopark, Pretoria. Firefighters found a corpse, severely decomposed and burned, in a pothole during the firefight, large enough for the slender posture to fit half-curved.
“The person’s hands were tied behind his back and a plastic bag was pulled over the person’s head. The identity could not be determined at that stage, but the pathologist could determine that it was a white woman of the 50s who was ill, “Magongwa said.
The two investigators followed up this and other information.
“On Saturday, July 4, Danieta and Gert van Rhyn were arrested in Queenswood, Pretoria, where they were hiding in a home,” the detective added.
Then, even before the accused’s case was called to court, Magongwa was informed out of court: The body found during the wildfire was identified with fingerprints as Venter’s.
In the courtroom, the Van Rhyns, then unaware of this, entered the dock.
Magistrate Maryke de la Rey explained their rights to legal representation, on which the two asked for a lawyer from Legal Aid SA.
They added that they were renting the house in Queenswood and giving it as a permanent address with a bail application.
Prosecutor Riekus Kriel replied that the information he had in the file “sketches a different picture” than what the accused give to the court.
“The state will definitely oppose bail,” he added.
The case was postponed until later this month and the Van Rhyns remain in custody.