An 18-year-old who was charged with kidnapping, murdering and robbing a school secretary, yesterday cried with relief and tightly hugged his parents after being acquitted on all charges.
The youth walked out of the Pretoria High Court a free man after being charged with helping an older school friend to kidnap and murder Esbe Koster, a secretary at the Rabboni Christian School in Brits where both were pupils in 2016.
His 19-year-old friend, who is serving a 25-year sentence after admitting guilt to the charges, testified that the younger boy had been a willing participant in their plan.
However, the boy insisted he had no idea they were going to hijack Koster, let alone kill her.
He said it was his friend who had forced Koster at gunpoint to drive to a deserted spot where he shot her twice in the head before driving off with her car. He said he had kept quiet about the incident because he was afraid of the older boy, who had bullied him at school and had a history of misbehaviour from a young age.
He also believed everything would be over if he kept quiet as he had only one subject left to write, after which his family would move to another town.
Well-known clinical psychologist Prof Gerard Labuschagne testified the younger boy’s failure to run away or tell his parents after seeing his friend cold-bloodedly murder Koster did not necessarily mean he was a willing participant in the murder.
Acting Judge J Hattingh found the younger boy’s version, that he was scared of his friend and did not disclose the incident because he feared for his life and that of his family, was a plausible explanation for his conduct.
He said the boy did not take anything, which was hardly the conduct of a co-conspirator who wanted to share in the spoils of the crime. Although he tried to tie up Koster, he did it so badly that she could free herself.
The judge rejected the self-confessed killer’s evidence that his younger friend had agreed to take Koster’s car, saying his evidence was riddled with contradictions.
He found that the state had not proved the younger boy’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and acquitted him on all charges.