The Waterkloof “Five” – Exposing the Trial

The Events as it unfolded

Christoff-Becker-face

Unlike the Oscar Pistorius case, where many details were disclosed in the media, they never gave much away when reporting on the Waterkloof 4 case. Maybe it was because it appeared to be open and shut, especially judging by the public who presumed them guilty before proven innocent.  Since so little is known about the events and the trial which would change these boys’ lives forever, lets go back to where it all started. Here are the facts, that came directly from court evidence.

Christoff Becker, the son of the principal of Hoërskool Waterkloof Dr Christo Becker

Christoff Becker, the son of the principal of Hoërskool Waterkloof Dr Christo Becker

Christoff Becker, the son of the principal of Hoërskool Waterkloof Dr Christo Becker, and four of his friends, Frikkie du Preez, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt were all at a party on a Saturday night in November 2001. The fourth friend, Heinrich von Landsberg, was also present but turned state witness.  So in fact it was the Waterkloof “Five” originally.

After the party, they went to a club in Hatfield, from where they left in Becker’s father’s BMW and a Tazz which Von Landsberg’s 14-year-old cousin, Christo Bouwer, was driving.

Frikkie du Preez asked the black man where Blood Street was, then looked around and hit the man in the face with his fist.

Frikkie du Preez asked the black man where Blood Street was, then looked around and hit the man in the face with his fist.

“As we drove, Frikkie told Christo to stop. “He said he saw a ‘kaffir’ next to the road. We stopped and Frikkie got out. “He then asked me to walk with him.”

He asked the black man where Blood Street was, then looked around and hit the man in the face with his fist,” Von Landsberg said.

They drove off and met up with the BMW. After hearing about this incident, everyone allegedly returned to where the man was. Von Landsberg said that when they arrived, the man started running. Van Schalkwyk followed and tackled him. Tiedt then allegedly kicked the man and stepped on his head. The boys then left.

However, not long afterwards, Becker allegedly phoned Von Landsberg, saying there were burglars in a certain park. When the people in the Tazz arrived there, they saw the BMW. Its boot was open. Von Landsberg testified that Becker had put carving knives in the boot the previous night.

Gert Van Schalkwyk made a stabbing movement in the direction of the man's lower body.  When the man fell, the boys, including Gert, allegedly kicked him.

Gert Van Schalkwyk made a stabbing movement in the direction of the man’s lower body. When the man fell, the boys, including Gert, allegedly kicked him.

“We saw Christoff and Gert. There was a black man with them. Christoff made a stabbing movement in the direction of the man’s back. “Gert made a similar movement to the man’s lower body. I could not see what was in their hands,” the witness said. When the man fell, the boys, including the witness, allegedly kicked him.

Du Preez allegedly asked Von Landsberg if he knew Naas Botha. When the witness asked “why”, Du Preez apparently ran and kicked the man in his face.”

They ran back to the vehicles, where Becker and Van Schalkwyk allegedly had a quarrel about Becker throwing the knives away. Von Landsberg said this was when he heard his friends had knives.

Reinach Tiedt assaulted their victim with a hammer

Reinach Tiedt assaulted their victim with a hammer

Apparently Tiedt also took a hammer from the car before he ran into the park with the others. That same night they went back to look for the knives and the hammer. They found the man still on the ground, moaning and asking for a doctor. Von Landsberg said he smelt of blood.

“Frikkie again asked me if I knew Naas Botha and again kicked the man in the face,” Von Landsberg said. They only found the hammer, allegedly with blood on it, but the knives were missing.

The following day Becker allegedly offered Von Landsberg’s younger brother R250 for every knife he found. The boy did not find any knives, but told the witness that he saw the man and thought he was dead.

Mr Reinhardt von Landsberg testified that from the scene they went to Woodhill. At some stage, accused no 1 telephoned the police and told them that at a park at Moreletapark there is a black man who is making noise. Police asked him for his telephone number and he (accused no 1) gave them an incorrect telephone number. No 1 later phoned the police again and told them that, no, it is a drunk black man who is sitting with his wife and making noise.

This was a very big story at the time - in Pretoria, especially because it happened on their doorstep.  It was a case religiously followed by both teachers and pupils at schools and was the topic of many a heated debate during and after school hours.

This was a very big story at the time – in Pretoria, especially because it happened on their doorstep. It was a case religiously followed by both teachers and pupils at schools and was the topic of many a heated debate during and after school hours.

He further testified that the following day he decided to go back to the scene at the park where they assaulted a man, in order to determine if the man was still lying where they left him and whether he was still alive. 0n his arrival at the veld, he found the man still lying there and he thought that he was dead. He went back home and telephoned no 1. He told the latter that he thought the man was dead, and no 1 told him to go and ascertain if the man is actually dead, and to see if he can find the knives which were thrown away by them after assaulting the said man.

He further testified that he went back to the scene, took a stone as big as a golf ball and threw it at his head, and the man did not shift or move. He looked around for knives but he could not find them. He went back home, telephoned no 1 and made a report to him. The following day, they went back to the scene to look for knives after no 1 promised them a payment if they can find the knives. They could not find any knives.
0n a particular Tuesday, which was about a few days after the incident, after receiving a report he went to the scene and found a number of police officers there.

Du Preez, Becker and Van Schalkwyk were arrested in August 2003. Tiedt returned to South Africa from the United States in June  to stand trial.  The four were granted bail of R2 000 each.

Du Preez, Becker and Van Schalkwyk were arrested in August 2003. Tiedt returned to South Africa from the United States in June to stand trial. The four were granted bail of R2 000 each.

In cross-examination, he was asked various questions relating to the routes they used, telephone calls they made etc. He further testified that on the particular night it rained. He saw that the police recovered a corpse in the veld.
During cross-examination by advocate Jaap Cilliers, Von Landsberg admitted that they had drunk that night and that his memory might have been affected by that. He also admitted that he was scared when he ran into the park.
According to him, Dr Becker had called everyone involved to his home at a later stage, but all just agreed to say as little as possible about the incidents. “Dr Becker did not try to influence us,” Von Landsberg said.

After the Night of the Incident

Hoerskool Garsfontein - a  popular secondary school in Pretoria East, South Africa

Hoerskool Garsfontein – a popular secondary school in Pretoria East, South Africa where Christoff Becker matriculated after the incident.

All wrote matric at the Hoërskool Waterkloof, except for Becker, who was at Hoërskool Garsfontein. They were aged 16 at time of the alleged crimes, but three of them were arrested only in August the next year. Tiedt was arrested in June the following year, after returning from America.

The trial started after a State witness, Heinrich von Landsberg, then 19 years old, was warned that he would not receive indemnity from prosecution if his evidence was not honest and truthful.

The whistle-blowers

Reinard Von Landsberg, and his brother, Heinrich, experienced many years of prejudice and hardship because of their decision to reveal the truth and thus became state witnesses against the other accused.
Mr Clive Watson, the Director of the private school, Woodhill College, where they were studying, asked them to leave the school because of the “bad publicity” after they reported the crime to the Public Prosecuter.
In the years that the court case dragged on they were victimized, threatened and insulted on an ongoing basis.
Their father, Hein Von Landsberg made a statement in which he said that no parent ever want to see his child in jail.  He said:
We all make mistakes.  That night the boys were stupid and irresponsible.  But a child of sixteen do not have enough intelligence to realize the implications of what they did.”
He felt that the kids were ill advised on how to handle the whole debacle and that those people will forever have it on their conscience.  According to him the police, as well as Adv Johan Kruger the prosecuter very accomodating and asked that all the kids come forward and just tell the truth.
Mr Von Landsberg feels that in retrospect, if they all did it from the start, like his sons, they would have been found guilty of manslaughter only but they choose not to do that and now they are experiencing the consequences.
As their father he himself was the victim of abuse because of their 12 year sentences.  He said what nobody knew was that as a father it was the most difficult decision of his life to decide whether he must let his sons tell the truth and run the risk of being sent to jail for their role in the proceedings that night.  It played on his conscience terribly.
He has great sympathy for the parents of the convicted four, specially for the hundreds and thousands of rands they had to spend to try and keep their children out of prison.

Next page:  Exploring the Trial

2 Comments
  1. Excellent post. I am checking this weblog continuously and I’m inspired!
    Very useful information – particularly this article. Thanks and good luck.

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