Weird world of freezer murder suspects
Family’s Mount Croix home caught fire an astonishing 71 times because of ‘paranormal activities’
Details of the strange world inhabited for years by the Port Elizabeth family alleged to have murdered an elderly electrician have emerged.
On Friday police confirmed that Wayne Russouw, 31, who was arrested along with his mother Christine, 55, and sister Chantell, 35, for the murder of Petrus Scholtz, 70, is also the prime suspect in three other cases – two of theft and one of fraud.
Police on Friday would not confirm whether or not Christine or Chantell were persons of interest in any other crimes, saying only that investigations continued.
The family also made headline news in the early 2000s when their Mount Croix home caught fire an astonishing 71 times – allegedly due to paranormal activity.
On Friday, a Port Elizabeth pastor who investigated the strange fires said he was shocked at the murder allegations as Christine “was a very friendly person”.
He maintained that paranormal activities were behind the fires that apparently followed the family to the next home they inhabited.
Port Elizabeth residents on social media have been scathing about the three suspects, with many openly accusing them of theft, fraud or panhandling, using “sob stories” to garner handouts.
The three family members are suspected of murdering Scholtz, who worked for Peter White Electrical in Summerstrand, before placing his body in a freezer and dumping him, a day later, in the bushes.
Scholtz’s body was found last week‚ his hands and feet bound‚ mouth taped shut and head covered in clingwrap.
Postmortem results showed he died as a result of being beaten with an object that has not yet been identified.
The Russouws were arrested at their Kabega Park home on Friday last week.
The fires at the family’s Buckingham Road, Mount Croix home, dubbed “the spook house”, started in 2000 and the house was demolished a few years later.
The home belonged to Christine’s mother, Irene Dames. At the time, Christine, Chantell – then 18 – and Wayne, then 14, were living with Dames.
The family claimed they were haunted by supernatural powers after the house was gutted in a fire, killing the family’s dog and cat, in May 2001.
In one incident, in September 2000, they claimed a bathroom towel caught alight for no apparent reason.
Police forensics expert Superintendent Marcus Kelly at the time said that in one of the fires, an armchair in the lounge went up in smoke.
Kelly ruled out electrical faults, cigarettes or other common causes of fires.
“Things which should have caught alight didn’t: half an envelope burned with a small flame in a drawer filled with old papers and correspondence. And things which should not have burned, did,” he said in an interview in 2001.
After the house was gutted, Dames and her extended family moved into a flat in Central.
Christine said when the owner realised they were the “spook house” people, he booted them.
The family then relocated to Mackay Street, Central, but they were again troubled by 11 fires within a year.
There were also reports of bizarre happenings in the house, such as strange writing appearing on a wall and a cat being repeatedly thrown against a TV set in the lounge.
During the period of strange fires, spiritual experts and even police were consulted.
One of those called in was Word of Faith Christian Centre pastor James Lottering, a former policeman who had worked for the police’s Occult Related Crimes Unit between 1992 and 1997.
In an interview on Friday, Lottering said he had recognised the family – whose pictures appeared in the newspaper – after their arrest.
“I actually see her [Christine] regularly because I live in the Linton Grange area.
“She is a car guard in the area.
“She was always very friendly and I was so shocked when I heard that they were [allegedly] involved.”
Lottering recalled the series of fires at the house, but asked if the cause of the fires was ever established, he said he was unable to discuss the issue.
“I remember they called all sorts of people and even paranormal investigators once the house burnt down.
“They moved and I had similar issues for a period as well.”
Lottering said he believed the fires were supernatural.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that while investigations into Scholtz’s murder were still under way, robbery – that turned to murder – was suspected as the motive.
Naidu said that Wayne, who is not charged with any other crimes, is the prime suspect in three other criminal cases – of fraud in Humewood and theft in Walmer and Algoa Park.
Warnings about Wayne stretch back as far as 2013 when a woman wrote on Facebook: “Do not trust a dark headed guy by the name of Wayne Stoutgat Russouw, he cons people, main target is women. I know of three people and have heard many stories.”
In the past week, residents have taken to social media in their numbers claiming the suspects were well known for tricking, conning or garnering sympathy from others in order to fleece them of their money.
One woman alleged she was still paying off R20,000 Wayne had allegedly duped her out of, while a man claimed he had been taken for a good few thousand rand when Wayne claimed his son was ill and he needed money for treatment.
The man then claimed Wayne had claimed his son had died and he had handed over more money.
A charitable group of women recalled helping Christine access a free hearing aid when she claimed she needed to testify in a family member’s rape case but was afraid she would not be able to support the family member as she would not hear court proceedings.
While it is not yet known how Scholtz came to know the Russouws, Weekend Post tracked down a pub in Kabega Park frequented by both Scholtz and Wayne.
A bar lady and patrons at the Mini Vegas pub said they had seen both men in the bar.
The bar lady, who asked not to be named, said Scholtz had been a regular.
“He loved his ciders and would often just drink one or two while sitting in the corner [by himself] before leaving.
“He never really mingled with anyone . . . I actually thought he was very lonely.
“Wayne has been here before but was not a regular. Everyone in the area knows he is naughty and a compulsive liar.”
She added: “Everyone knows Wayne is a troublemaker so he was not very welcome in most places.”
Asked if the two had possibly met at the bar, she said: “It is possible but I don’t really know.”
The three suspects will appear in court on Monday.