Two men convicted of rape and murder in George

The two men who were accused of raping and murdering Charne Manuel were on Wednesday convicted by the high court in George. Ruwaden Bruiners and Johnick Kleinbooi were convicted  for the rape and murder of Manuel, whose body was found dumped at the railway tracks in September 2020. 

Guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances, rape and murder, the duo are expected to be sentenced on August 21. 

Manuel was last seen in the company of Bruiners and Kleinbooi on the evening of  September 16 2020, a couple of hours after they were stopped and searched by police at a roadblock in George.

Manuel’s body was discovered the following morning next to a railway line, with her underwear and pants pulled down to just below her waist.

Kleinbooi confessed to the crimes and participated in a pointing-out of evidence to the police. 

“Bruiners said he was with Kleinbooi that evening, and both were stopped and searched by police at a roadblock, the deceased walked with them when they left the police roadblock. They walked along the train lines with the deceased, and they decided to rob her. He placed his arm around her neck and choked her. She lost consciousness and he made her lie down alongside the train lines. He searched her and his co-accused tied her hands and feet. She regained consciousness but Kleinbooi, choked her again and he noticed that she was not moving anymore. He noticed somebody was approaching as he saw a light in the distance, and they both ran away,” said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila. 

Kleinbooi confirmed that he was with his co-accused, but had wanted to go home. He said Bruiners coerced him to remain in his company and that of the deceased.

“He choked Manuel, and [said] his involvement in any of the offences was the result of Bruiners’ coercion.”

Senior state advocate Lenro Badenhorst called several witnesses, who proved the two plea explanations were peppered with lies and left out significant details which tied the two accused to the crimes. One of the witnesses was Dr Marianna Winterbach, who performed the postmortem and found that the death was consistent with smothering, because of a rolled-up sock which was pushed into the mouth, and which filled the entire oral cavity and oro-pharynx.

“A rope was tied through the mouth, over the cheeks and around the upper neck with a knot at the back of the neck. A second sock was also found tucked in the mouth under the front bottom teeth,” said adv Badenhorst.

“In her opinion, the deceased would have become unconscious within three minutes and would have demised a few minutes later when all her organs shut down due to lack of oxygen. DNA analysis of the swabs of the vulva, perineum, peri-anal and endocervical as well as swabs from the deceased’s hands and shoelaces did not produce a DNA result. The court heard that Bruiners used a plastic bread cover as a condom to not leave any DNA behind.”

Arguing on the murder charge, adv Badenhorst said: “It is submitted that it is highly unlikely that it would have required the accused to choke the deceased to a state of unconsciousness just to rob her. It would have been easy, being in a remote place, to corner her and take her cell phone or the contents of her backpack.

“It is submitted that it is highly unlikely that they would have allowed her to go free at the train track in circumstances where she knew them and could report the robbery. It was striking that the accused one could not under cross-examination explain how they planned to get away with the robbery of the complainant as she knew their identity.”

In his judgment, judge Derek Wille agreed with the state on a common purpose.

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