It was evident that the Schuttes had been senselessly slaughtered, with Ekard having suffered 17 stab wounds to his neck, head, chest and back, and his throat slashed. Elizabeth suffered an enormous wound to her neck, measuring 9cm in length. When she was found, her burnt body was still bound and gagged. Lutz was stabbed 23 times in the neck, head, abdomen and back. Nine of these wounds were to his neck alone. His throat was also slit.
Happier times: the complete Schutte family …from left… Gerlind, Angela, Ekard, Elizabeth, Matthias, Lutz and Stefan Schutte.
Emotions ran high at the Pietermaritzburg High Court when Stefan Schutte paid tribute to three of his family members murdered on their Richmond farm.
His voice cracking with emotion, Schutte spoke of the loss and devastation his family had suffered and continue to suffer on a daily basis as the result of the murders of his brother Lutz and his parents, Ekard and Elizabeth Schutte.
Schutte was testifying in aggravation of sentence against the three men responsible for the murders.
Siphesihle Ngubane 20, Zamokuhle Maduna 19 and Lindokuhle Khoza 18 were convicted of three counts of murder, robbery with aggravated circumstances and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.
They confessed to having killed Ekard, 76, Elizabeth, 66, and their youngest son, Lutz, 33, on the evening of March 1, 2014.
The three were stabbed repeatedly, their throats slit, bodies doused with petrol and set alight.
The bodies were found the next day by the couple’s other son, Stefan, a Pietermaritzburg businessman, when he arrived at the smallholding for what was meant to be his father’s birthday celebration.
Maduna was employed as a gardener on the Schutte farm and had masterminded the robbery and murders. He kept his face bowed and never looked up while Schutte testified.
Speaking of his brother, Schutte said that Lutz had moved to Germany after he finished school to pursue his dream of a career in music. In Germany, Lutz was contracted to work with international brands MTV and Nikelodeon, and was very successful.
“My brother, my friend, was a gentle soul and was godfather to my two sons. The many friends and colleagues of his who flew to South Africa after hearing of his death is testament to what a good man he was. I am sad to think that he was only 33 when he was taken… He still had so much to offer the world,” Schutte said.
He choked back the tears as he spoke of his parents, who he said had moulded him into the man he was.
“My darling mom… You are missed every day by everyone who knew you. It still hurts to know that my mom had to watch her youngest child killed, before she herself was murdered. I cannot understand how life can be so cruel. Mom, you will forever remain the queen of our hearts,” he said, unable to hold back tears.
Schutte told the court that his father was his hero, who had taught him all the skills he was now equipped with.
“I learned so much from you, dad. Most importantly you taught me to cherish all life forms, from the insect to a human being. There are no words to describe what a wonderful man, husband and father you were,” he said.
“I stand here today in honor of my brother and parents. To us, the world will never be the same. I am sorry for what you endured in the last moments of your lives. You never deserved such cruelty,” Schutte said, as his family members wept in the court gallery.
Schutte said that his family had trusted Maduna, after taking him in two years ago and assisting him in completing his matric and teaching him carpentry skills, as well as providing him with extra income by employing him as their gardener.
“My parents gave him food and shelter and we trained him so that he could have a better his life. Since the murder, the pain I feel is unbearable.
“The hate I feel scares me. I feel like I will grieve forever, and yet forever is not long enough. Our lives have been destroyed at the hands of a person we cared for and trusted,” he said.
Schutte said the images he had of finding his parents’ and brother’s bodies would haunt him for the rest of his life.
“Finding their bodies has changed me forever. I always believed in forgiveness, but I cannot forgive this. I hope and pray that I never have to see the living faces of Zamo (Maduna) and his friends again,” Schutte said.
He also told the court that since the murders he had experienced extreme anxiety and depression and has had to be hospitalised for a week. He now seeks psychiatric therapy.
He said his sons were also referred to a psychologist after their teachers noticed that they had become withdrawn and their performance at school had dropped.
Schutte confirmed that his father’s sawmill business was on the verge of closing, due to financial hardships, which would result in many job losses.
When they pleaded guilty, the killers admitted having planned to rob and to kill Ekard Schutte after luring him to an outbuilding on his farm. The plan was masterminded by Maduna.
After stabbing him multiple times outside they entered the house, and laid in wait for Elizabeth – who had the safe keys – and who had gone to fetch Lutz from the airport.
When mother and son entered they were overpowered. Lutz was also stabbed to death and Elizabeth was bound and gagged. After forcing her to open the safe, Ngubane cut her throat.
The killers then poured petrol over the bodies and set them alight as part of a plan to destroy evidence at the crime scene.
Judges decide killers of Schutte family got what they deserved
Their advocate, Zina Anasstasiou, argued that all three were youthful, first-time offenders, who had shown remorse for their actions and had co-operated with the police after their arrests. “Their actions do not warrant life imprisonment,” she said.
Lindokuhle Khoza , the youngest killer has failed in an appeal against his sentence of life plus 15 years’ imprisonment.
Three judges of the KZN high court found in a reserved judgment that in spite of being 17 years old when he committed the murders, the sentences imposed on Khoza could not be said to be “unduly harsh or shockingly inappropriate” given the heinous nature of his crimes. When he was sentenced Khoza was 18 years and 10 months old.
Judge Rishi Seegobin, with Judge Trevor Gorven and Judge Peter Olsen concurring, said young people who commit barbaric and despicable acts of violence against innocent and defenseless members of society should not expect lighter sentences by claiming youthfulness and immaturity.
“The trial court [in this case] found correctly that the youthfulness of the appellant was offset by the viciousness of the attack,” said Seegobin.
Khoza, along with his co-accused Zamokhule Maduna (19) and Siphesihle Ngubane (20) pleaded guilty to murdering the three Schutte family members, so they could rob them.
Judge Seegobin said a feature of the “vicious and deadly attack” was that the victims were completely defenseless. “They put up no resistance whatsoever. The murders were committed in a cold-blooded and callous manner,” he said.
The full bench agreed with acting judge Louis Barnard, who said the killers had time to reflect on what they were doing after they had first killed Ekard Schutte.
“Instead they chose to pounce on the third deceased [Lutz] and mercilessly stabbed and killed him in front of his mother. As far as the second deceased [Elizabeth] is concerned, even after she had opened the safe for them, they thought nothing of stabbing her and slitting her throat,” said the Judge.
Judge Seegobin also said the country is facing a “crisis of alarming proportions” in respect of the killing of farmers, their families and sometimes employees.
“The accompanying violence … as in this case fills society with anger and outrage,” he said. He added that statistics gathered over the past few years about the number of farm attacks were a matter of “deep concern” not only for the government, but also courts who had to deal with them on a daily basis..