Suspects charged with raping and killing lesbian couple ‘should not be released on bail’

Defendants charged with brutally torturing and killing a lesbian couple should be denied bail, a court has heard.

South African spouses Joey van Niekerk, 32, and Anisha van Niekerk, 30, were murdered last year after being tortured, prosecutors have said.

The couple went missing on December 10, after leaving their home in Mooinooi for Joey’s father’s funeral.

(Facebook/Wynand van Niekerk)

Their burned-out car was found six days after they left home – and on December 28, bones thought to be theirs were discovered along a road near the couple’s hometown.

Before being killed, the victims were allegedly repeatedly raped in front of each other and hanged in a container on a property belonging to one of the eight people accused.

Joey and Anisha had been married for three years.

(Facebook/joey van niekerk)

The eight accused have been charged with two counts of murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, unlawful possession of a firearm and ‘defeating the course of justice’.

During the suspects’ bail application on Wednesday, prosecutor Christine Molautsi said all defendants should be denied bail.

“Due to the violence of the offence and for the sake of the community’s safety, the accused should remain in custody,” she said.

(Facebook/Wynand van Niekerk)

Molautsi said that one defendant, a 52-year-old man who prosecutors have accused of masterminding the inhumane attack, had been threatening witnesses from behind bars.

“If there is any question whether his release will put the community in danger, the answer is yes,” she said.

“The court heard about witnesses being in witness protection after their lives were threatened. It is the state’s opinion that he will continue.

“His wife testified about 1 million Rand that was kept in his house, we don’t know if he has more money that he can take and move to another place,” she added.

Joey van Niekerk (Facebook/joey van niekerk)

Molautsi also alleged that he had been dishonest, saying: “He played victim in the court, claiming police brutality, but even more perplexing was the fact that despite the wide media coverage, he came to court claiming not to know what was going on.”

The prosecutor said that another of the accused, a 36-year-old man who has admitted to stealing thousands from the victims with one of the other defendants for a shopping spree, should also not be released on bail.

She told the court that though he had handed himself over to the authorities, “assisting the police is not a free card to avoid prosecution.”

Molautsi told the court: “The state’s submission is that due to the degree of violence of the crimes and for the safety of the community, bail should be denied to all eight accused.”

Anisha van Niekerk (Facebook/Anisha van Niekerk)

Magistrate Semakuleng Thamage is expected to deliver his verdict on April 26.

Joey and Anisha’s bodies and clothes were thrown into dustbins, prosecutor Colonel Isaac Tlhape has previously told the court, before two of the suspects soaked them with acid and petrol and set them alight.

“Both bodies were covered with wood and rubbish to make the fire stronger,” he said.

(Facebook/Anisha van Niekerk)

In January, the man who was allegedly behind the murders said in court that he was “good friends” with the couple.

He told the court in the north-east of the country that he had a “very good relationship” with the two women.

Many of the couple’s family and friends have been in the court’s gallery during the trial, wearing black t-shirts saying: “Geregtigheid vir Joey & Anisha,” which translates as “Justice for Joey & Anisha”.