Plea agreement for Cape pastor accused of rape, murder postponed

Family members of victims at the Mitchells Plain magistrate's court at one of Bird's earlier appearances. FILE PHOTO: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Family members of victims at the Mitchells Plain magistrate's court at one of Bird's earlier appearances. FILE PHOTO: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

The victim’s mother wept because she thought the whole ordeal would be over today.

In May 2013, Rodinn Koense was planning a 21st birthday party for her daughter, an “angel” who had big dreams and promised to one day buy her family a house.

But 20-year-old Sharvonne Koense’s life was cut short two weeks before her birthday when she was raped and strangled by former pastor Keith Bird on May 18, 2013.

Her partially clothed body was dumped in the bushes in Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain, and discovered by a passerby later that day.

A plea and sentence agreement was expected to be finalised in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday, but Judge President John Hlophe postponed the case to March 25 to allow Bird to scrutinise the document over the weekend.

Hlophe said the agreement was at an advanced stage and Bird had the right to go through it carefully.

For Koense’s mother, the postponement was devastating: “I’m feeling very sad. I’ve been waiting for six years, and I thought today would be a victory so we could move on.”

Her daughter had been studying nursing and was loved by everyone, she told African News Agency.

She said the whole family had battled to come to terms with her death. Sharvonne’s sister, who was in grade 11 at the time of her death, could not face returning to school and dropped out.

The former pastor was arrested in 2017 for Koense’s murder as well as that of An-Niesa Bardien, 36, who he killed after she broke off their engagement. Bardien’s decomposed body was found several days after her disappearance.

The state alleges that on January 8 2013, the accused used another woman to lure Bardien into bushes near Camp Road in Strandfontein. He allegedly strangled Bardien until she was unconscious and then crushed her head with a rock.

Bird also allegedly used social media to lure women. In one case in May 2014, he arranged to meet a woman through Facebook, on the pretext of offering her a modelling job. He then allegedly took out a knife and taser and forced her to perform oral sex on him.

In January 2014, he used the social network app “mxit” to meet one of the complainants. He visited her at her home and allegedly raped her, threatening to shock her if she did not co-operate. He also allegedly stole her Blackberry cellphone.

The state says he returned to her house twice a week from January to May, threatening her and her family if she did not comply with his demands for sex.

– African News Agency

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