AN ESTATE agent has been acquitted of murder, seven years after she was first arrested for allegedly killing her live-in partner by hitting him over the head with a frying pan.
Reinet van der Westhuizen, 36, cried tears of joy yesterday as the Port Elizabeth Regional Court ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict her.
It was alleged she hit Gerdouw Siebrits, 35, over the head with a blunt object, presumably a frying pan, on March 26 2006. He then fell about 1.5m to the bottom of the staircase in the couple’s Westering home.
Van der Westhuizen, who pleaded not guilty, maintained that Siebrits was drunk at the time and must have tripped over something before falling to his death.
A postmortem revealed that he died from a blow to the back of the head. However, it did not exclude Van der Westhuizen’s version.
She claimed that she had returned home from shopping at about 2pm to discover her boyfriend’s lifeless body at the bottom of the steps.
The court heard how she then sent an SMS to her ex-husband, informing him of Siebrits’s death. The police were only contacted much later.
At the close of the state’s case yesterday, the defence brought an application for the discharge of the accused.
The defence argued that the state had failed to establish a prima facie case and that if Van der Westhuizen was forced to testify, all she would do was fill in the gaps for the state.
Magistrate Chris Kruger agreed.
He said the state had relied heavily on speculation.
The state had argued that Van der Westhuizen’s reaction to the death of her boyfriend of 18 months was “suspicious”.
The prosecution said the SMS to her ex-husband even had punctuation marks in all the right places, making it seem as if she was relatively calm for someone who had just discovered the body of a loved one.
Kruger said while Van der Westhuizen’s conduct could be criticised, this did not make her guilty of murder. He accordingly acquitted her.
Van der Westhuizen said she had been through seven years of “hell”, and that she even lost custody of her three children following her arrest.
She said she was relieved the case was over and that she could move on with her new life with her boyfriend, Kevin Levinthal. The two have since relocated to Johannesburg.
They met just days before Siebrits’s death. Although Van der Westhuizen said they were just friends at the time, Levinthal stuck by her throughout the ordeal.
Van der Westhuizen said she had made the decision to terminate her relationship with Siebrits shortly before his death.
“He had a serious drinking problem but he never became aggressive towards me or my children. He would never hurt me and I would never hurt him,” she said.
Siebrits’s family, who were also in court, expressed their disappointment at the outcome of the case.
His mother, Marie, said: “We just feel like there is no recourse, but we will just have to try and move on.
“It is a pity that we still don’t have answers.”