No bail for Mpumalanga farmers charged with murder, violating a corpse

The discovery of a brain in a plastic bag led to the arrest of two men alleged to be behind two gruesome murders.

The Evander Magistrate’s Court yesterday denied Abraham Hermanus de la Rey (52) and Arthur William Underhay (39) bail.

Following their arrest last month, De la Rey (a farm owner) and Underhay (a farm manager) were both charged with murder, violating a corpse, defeating the course of justice and intimidation.

Their arrest came after the police found what they suspected was a human brain wrapped in a plastic bag on a farm in the Evander area, as well as blood elsewhere on the farm.

A tip-off about burnt bodies that were allegedly buried on a farm sent the police to De la Rey’s farm.

Court proceedings

The remains are believed to be those of Sthembiso Mnikathi (33) and Buhlebuyeza Ximba (35), who were reported missing in Leandra last June. The SAPS subsequently transferred the missing persons case to Kinross, before it ended up with the Evander SAPS.

Ridge Times reports that investigating officer Sergeant Steven Tshehla, who previously testified that the police were told the missing men were run over, shot, their bodies burnt, and their remains disposed of somewhere in the Delmas area, returned to the stand on Monday to testify.

During cross-examination, Tshehla told the court that the test on the ‘partial’ brain to determine if it was human was inconclusive. DNA testing showed that the blood found on the grass at the farm was a match for Mnikathi and Ximba, he said.

The accused’s attorney told the court that De la Rey is a farmer who contributes immensely to the SA’s economy, and while he is in custody, his business faces many challenges.

The attorney added that his client has several employees who could lose their jobs if he remained behind bars. He told the court that his client has several properties in the country, which are part of the exceptional circumstances for the court to grant him bail. De la Rey also claimed ill health.

EFF members picket outside the Evander Magistrate’s Court.

Families seek answers

Outside court, the families of Mnikathi and Ximba told Ridge Times they want to know where their remains are to give them a proper burial.

“We don’t care if we have to go to the Delmas area to perform our cultural rituals. It has been seven months since they disappeared, and we were shocked to hear their bodies were allegedly taken to Delmas after being burnt. If they were buried there, we ask to be taken there,” a family member said.

“Our grandmothers are still grieving back home in KZN, hoping to find their children’s bodies. We have still not been told where their bodies are buried,” said another family member.

They told Ridge Times that Mnikathi and Ximba have children asking why their fathers no longer come home for their usual monthly visits.
“How do we answer this?” they asked.

The case was postponed to March 20 to allow for further investigation.

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