National 29.7.2016 04:18 pm

Lowveld community gets closure in ‘rapist-murderer’s’ death

One of the man's victims, Dr Rensia de Wet. Photo: Lowvelder

One of the man's victims, Dr Rensia de Wet. Photo: Lowvelder

When his gruesome rapes and murders were read out to him in January, he pushed out his chest, smiled and said: “These are only the crimes you’re aware of”.

The death of the man who allegedly raped and killed White River veterinarian Dr Rensia de Wet, is “probably for the best”.

The Lowvelder reports De Wet was brutally murdered in her home on Nottinghill Equestrian Estate on the Yaverland Road outside White River on December 8, 2014. Frans Mokoena, a groom on the estate, was apprehended five days later.

His trial was scheduled for the local High Court from August 15 to 26. However, this week prosecutors received confirmation of his death, cited as due to natural causes.

He died in the Barberton State Hospital in January after falling ill in the town’s maximum security prison, where he was held after his parole was revoked.

Mokoena’s death stirred up a range of emotions in his surviving victims and the friends and family of those he had wronged. “We’re hanging by a thread each day,” De Wet’s father, Sarel Burger, said on Wednesday. “It’s hard to deal with Rensia’s loss. But we are getting stronger each day. He is dead now, it’s probably for the best.”

He thanked the Lowveld community for its support and interest in De Wet’s case.

A beautiful family: Sarel, Rensia and Mary when Rensia was still a baby.

Mokoena robbed, raped and killed 14 times in the past 10 years. When the timeline of his gruesome rapes and murders were read out to him in January, he pushed out his chest, smiled slightly and said: “These are only the crimes you’re aware of”. His eyes darted wildly as he confirmed that he might have committed many more.

De Wet, a specialist equestrian veterinarian, lived in a wooden house on the estate. The beautiful, petite brunette was loved by locals from all walks of life. She was respected as an expert in her field and described by friends as strong-willed woman with a warm heart, who would help her fellow man whenever she could.

When her body was found in her home on December 9, the community reeled from shock. De Wet had been stabbed multiple times, raped and strangled to death with a curtain chord. Her upper lip was bitten off.

Bloody knives were found on the scene. One was on her bed, the other on her body and a third had broken off in her flesh while she was being stabbed. The fingerprints of the man who killed her were imprinted on the flat’s walls in blood. He left his boxer shorts on the scene.

Mokoena fled the scene and hid out in the Matsafeni area, where he approached two women to talk about a job offer. One of them was interested and during a walk through the neighbourhood on December 12 he overpowered, assaulted and raped her. She put up a fight and bit his upper lip.

Frans Mokoena's lip was bitten by one of his rape victims.

Mokoena was arrested for De Wet’s murder the following day. He had some of De Wet’s clothes in his possession.

While recovering from her injuries, his victim from Matsafeni paged through Lowvelder and recognised the face of her rapist in a story about his arrest. She alerted the police and he was charged with her rape too.

Mokoena’s known transgressions date back to 2004, when being sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, of which two were suspended. He barely served a year before he was released.  In 2007 he was found guilty of robbery and rape in Mbombela  and sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which he served seven.

He left the Lowveld for eMalahleni where he worked on a farm. He locked a co-worker in a room and repeatedly assaulted and raped her. Lowvelder spoke to the woman, who feels free of fear for the first time since the incident. “I am happy. That horrible man has passed away. I was too scared to go anywhere, fearing that I might one day see him again. Now he is dead and I am free to go wherever I want,” she said.

During his bail application in eMalahleni, a police officer submitted that he had no previous convictions and was not considered a threat to society. He was released on bail and travelled back to Mbombela.

Another of Mokoena’s victims was identified as an elderly woman from Ngodwana. She was raped and strangled to death in August 2014. A piece of his clothing was found on the scene and some of the victim’s belongings had been taken.

While working on a farm outside the city in October that year, a robbery was reported in connection with which Mokoena was later charged. When his prior convictions were placed on record during his bail hearing in February 2015, it left the Lowveld community enraged. He had been incarcerated twice, been granted parole twice and released on bail prior to committing his crimes.

The thread of evidence linking Mokoena to the decade of crimes included fingerprint evidence, DNA, a pointing-out and bite marks. He never denied committing the crimes and was renowned for his rowdy behaviour in court.

Posts of prayers and fond memories still find their way to De Wet’s Facebook profile. A year after her death, her cousin Candyce du Randt posted the following message: “Today a year ago our beautiful Rensia de Wet was taken from us in the most heartbreaking, senseless way. Our hearts still ache from the loss. But her legacy lives on. To me, she demonstrated what it was to live fearlessly, determined and never ever giving up on her dreams. She was so strong and so brave. We will always remember you, Rensia. Rest easy, sweet cousin. You live on in our hearts”.

Caxton News Service

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