In the Shadow of the Noose

marlene-modelAfter a hearing which lasted seven days and during which the State called more than 30 witnesses, the Judge, Mr Justice Diemont, and his two assessors, Mr A.J. van Niekerk and Mr F. van Zyl Smith, deliberated overnight after which they returned verdicts of guilty for both accused. The court found no extenuating circumstances and Lehnberg and Choegoe were sentenced to death. “I have presided over many cases but have never heard evidence as strange and bizarre as this one,” Mr Justice Diemont admitted.

The Judge concluded there was no doubt Marlene was the brains behind the murder, and Marlene and Choegoe were both sentenced to death.

While in prison Marlene had poured herself into her studies, obtaining a degree in psychology. She also studied Finance and debt collecting, computer programming and music. She was very proud of what she had achieved.

While in prison Marlene had poured herself into her studies, obtaining a degree in psychology. She also studied Finance and debt collecting, computer programming and music. She was very proud of what she had achieved.

Two months later, the case was re-opened on appeal. In July 1975, the death sentences were set aside. Lehnberg was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and Choegoe to 15 years.  After the trial in the late 1970s, a law known as the “Marlene Lehnberg Clause” was passed in South Africa, preventing convicted criminals from profiting from their crimes, since it was believed that Lehnberg planned to sell her story to the press for a large sum of money.

The Picture of an Evil Man

“I want to see Marlene in jail.”

Mr Christiaan van der Linde, then 50, lover of the convicted “scissors murderess Marlene Lehnberg, initially wanted to visit her in jail.

“I still love Marlene,” he said. “We had a beautiful, tender relationship.”

Mr Van der Linde was upset at being described by the Chief Justice, Mr Justice Rumpff, as “the source of evil in her troubled life.”

Speaking in Krugersdorp on September 7, 1975, Mr Van der Linde said: “Men have had mistresses since time immemorial – and will continue to have them. Many of these relationships flower into something really beautiful, as happened to me and Marlene, whom I called Sweetie.”

“Man is a hunter by nature, and as long as there are men and women in the world, they will continue seeking new experiences in the field of love.”

Mr Van der Linde said he felt very sorry for Marlene, and still had ” a lot of time for her”. After all, one does not set aside in a flash everything that has taken place between two people. She did a terrible thing, to be sure, but this doesn’t mean that she did so at my instigation.

“Her love for me drove her to kill my wife – but how does that make me evil?”

I suffered the agonies of the damned while Marlene lay in the shadow of the noose. To this day I have nightmares about it. Very few people realize just how much I have suffered.

“I know a lot of people will find this difficult to believe, but I loved Susanna very dearly.   We were always very close and did most things together. We had wonderful children and our household was normal in every respect. Is this the picture of an “evil man?

Christiaan never visited Marlene in jail.  They were never in contact again.

Marlene said "Everyone knows what other people said in court, but no one knows the true story."

Marlene said “Everyone knows what other people said in court, but no one knows the true story.”

When Marlene’s brother read the biography she was busy writing after her death, it would be revealed that Christiaan Van der Linde might have played a far more important role in the murder at the time.  Her brother would say:  “Christiaan Van der Linde – he was the problem.  He was totally involved.  Marlene was trying to get away from him, she wanted out big time.  The murder happened on the day that she got into her car to move to Johannesburg.  Nothing puts her in that house.”
Choegoe, was released in June 1986 and became an evangelical preacher.   He died in a car accident in 1992 on the N7 near Nuwerus in the Western Cape.

Lehnberg was paroled in December of 1986 after eleven years behind bars.

Marlene began a relationship with Jennifer Westfal, whom she met in jail.  The relationship fell apart in 1995.  There were other tumultuous relationships as well.  She joined a modelling agency while running her own beauty salon in Johannesburg.  She loved animals and had two dogs and two cats as pets.

her parents moved to the Western Cape coastal town of Mossel Bay from their home in Plumstead over a decade ago.  Marlene’s mother, Mavis, died of cancer in 2008.  Marlene saw her die and did not want to go through the same. Their father, Arthur, died at the age of 84 in 2014.

In the two weeks before her death Marlene, although naturally petite, weighed only 38kg. She was ill and knew her time was up, according to her brother.  He visited Marlene at her home in Glenvista, Johannesburg, at Easter 2015.  It was the last time he saw his sister.

When the conditions of her parole expired Marlene she was determined to prove her innocence and said that the drugs that Van Der Linde gave her, drove her to kill

When the conditions of her parole expired Marlene she was determined to prove her innocence and said that the drugs that Van Der Linde gave her, drove her to kill

Marlene ended her life in October 2015, five days before her 60th birthday. She had suffered from osteoporosis for years and had also been diagnosed with breast cancer. She could no longer take the severe pain she was in and committed suicide alone at home, and in relative obscurity.

She still did not feel, as she did then, remorse over the deed carried out that morning.  Whats regrettable, she said, was that she had to spend almost 12 years in jail. She said that she was never given the chance to tell her story in court…

The third member of the tragic triangle, Christiaan van der Linde, died a lonely man in 1983. After the trial, he moved to Krugersdorp so that he could visit his wife’s grave on her family’s farm in the Magaliesberg almost every day. “My dear wife is dead,” he once told a reporter. “I sincerely wish to God that I had never set eyes on Marlene Lehnberg.”

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