AN AMERICAN accused of murdering his wife at their Port Elizabeth home was yesterday released on R20 000 bail, but not before the court heard the grisly details of how his pretty 36-year-old wife’s throat was slashed right around her neck, as if someone had tried to decapitate her.
A sinking business and a life insurance policy emerged yesterday as the alleged motive behind the brutal murder of restaurateur Debbie Lewis.
The accused, Nathan Lewis, 44, was ordered to surrender his passport to the police.
The state opposed bail on the basis that Lewis was a flight risk.
Defence advocate Terry Price, instructed by Ryno Scholtz, argued that the state had relied on circumstantial evidence. Price said the accused’s version was “reasonably, possibly true” and it therefore could not be dismissed by the court. He said Lewis had handed in his passport and therefore could not be seen as a flight risk. .
Details leading to Lewis’s arrest were heard in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday. He had told police Debbie was killed after their Fernglen home was broken into. However, police said his story simply did not add up.
A knife covered in blood was discovered at the couple’s Fernglen home. Traces of blood were also discovered in the kitchen pipes, an indication that someone had washed their bloody hands. Police are still waiting for DNA results.
Lewis, from Tacoma in Washington, was arrested at about 7am on September 24, just hours after he rushed his dying wife to Greenacres Hospital, claiming they had been attacked. Debbie, 36, died on arrival at the casualty unit.
Her tearful friends and family packed the court yesterday as investigating officer Warrant-Officer Deon Hanekon gave testimony.
Lewis appeared calm throughout and glanced at his in-laws from time to time. Cuts on his right arm, which he alleged were caused during a scuffle with the intruders, had started to heal.
The two were married in May 2010, shortly after Lewis immigrated to South Africa.
Although they did not have children together, Lewis has four children from a previous marriage. They all live in New York.
Although Lewis was adamant that Debbie was killed during a scuffle with intruders at their upmarket townhouse, Hanekom said police became suspicious.
“The accused was taken to the police station and then back to his house to confirm what had happened. But police were not satisfied with his explanation. It did not make sense to them,” Hanekom said.
He said forensics investigators visited their property and there were no visible signs of a scuffle.
Although a lounge and kitchen window were smashed – where Lewis claimed the intruders gained entry – Hanekom said an ornament belonging to the couple was found on the grass outside.
He added that the windows were so high that intruders would have needed a ladder to gain entry.
In addition, he said the electric fencing on the boundary wall had not been tampered with and no valuables had been stolen.
He said a neighbour had spotted a white male, presumably Lewis, in the yard where the kitchen window was broken just hours before the murder took place.
“She saw him go in and out the house three times during the night. The last time she saw him he was busy burning something in the back yard.”
Another neighbour claimed she witnessed Debbie and a man arguing shortly after 1am that morning.
Hanekom said two men incarcerated with Lewis at the Kabega Park police station at the time of his arrest claimed Lewis told them he had killed his wife. They also claimed he had told them that the cuts on his arms were self-inflicted.
Hanekom said Pierre’s Bistro, which was in Debbie’s name, was in serious financial trouble. He said they owed The Bridge R250 000 for rent.
He also said Debbie had a life policy worth R1.38-million, of which Lewis was the main benefactor.
Just days before her death, Debbie informed her family that she wanted to divorce Lewis, Hanekom said.