It had been two years, two months and 28 days since Hilary van Rooyen was murdered by Reghard Groenewald, her grieving husband testified in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
“The murderer never showed any remorse and I perceived him to be arrogant, callous, manipulative and deceitful,” Derick van Rooyen said from the witness box, staring down Groenewald, whose head was bowed in the dock.
“What kind of person would send condolences to the husband of the woman that he murdered, socialise with the children of the mother that he murdered and attend the funeral of the woman that he murdered?”
Groenewald was in May convicted of murdering Hilary, his friend’s mother, in her Durbanville home two years ago. He claimed she had come on to him and that an argument had ensued when he rejected her.
He alleged that he had hit her with a vase when she had held onto him and threatened to tell everyone he had tried to rape and assault her.
“The unchartered emotional impact of the fabricated scenario and lies that the defence built their case on, saying Hilary made advances towards the murderer… Trying to smear the name of a good woman, to defend and deny his guilt,” Van Rooyen testified.
He spoke of how he made Hilary coffee in her favourite cup every morning, taking it to her in bed, before kissing her goodbye when he left for work.
‘I will never be able to forgive him’
Van Rooyen sold the family home in which his wife was killed six months after the murder, because without Hilary’s “omnipresence, it was just too big, dark and lifeless”.
“Every time I walked into the front door, I could see the image of Hilary’s lifeless body on the floor, and it depressed me immensely on all levels,” he said.
“[I experienced] cleaning up the crime scene on my hands and knees for two hours – all the dried blood, piece of glass, and strands of her hair struck to the blood; blood spatters on the walls and some furniture, knowing it was the last time I would ever interact with her essence, which lay destroyed in front of me.”
Seeing his wife’s “damaged face” when he identified her body was one of the most horrific images he had ever experienced, Van Rooyen recalled.
“The force that must have been exercised to result in such haemorrhage must have been extremely severe. Until today, and probably forever, this image is imprinted on my brain. It is impossible to try and get it out of my mind when I want to think about all the great memories of our wonderful and happy life together.”
Van Rooyen, who had been married to Hilary for 28 “truly joyful years”, urged Judge Derek Wille to hand Groenewald the “maximum sentence under the law”.
“I am angry and I hate him with every fibre of my being. I will never be able to forgive him. He took away my life and I want justice for Hilary, that would also set the sentencing bar high so as to benefit other families that have lost loved ones in such hideous crimes.”
Their son, Dean, testified that it saddened him that his mother would not be there to celebrate his milestones, like getting married or meeting his children one day.
“Her kindness is what led my mother to her death,” he said, echoing his father’s call for Groenewald to be handed the maximum sentence.
Earlier, Nicro social worker Arina Smit told the court that Groenewald was considered low risk in terms of dangerousness and being a threat to society.
Of the eight risk factors, he only had one present – substance use, which appeared to help him cope and deal with his guilt and overwhelming sense of disappointment, she said.
Department of Correctional Services social worker Mmseepa Kwakwa told the court that Groenewald would not be suitable for correctional supervision, as he had not taken full responsibility for what he had done, and still placed the blame on his victim.
“It should be taken into consideration that he maintains self-defence and shows no remorse,” Kwakwa said.
Proceedings continue on Wednesday.