FORMER Blanco club rugby player Vernon de Koker was sentenced in the George regional court yesterday to 25 years in jail for murdering Marisa Coetzee, 20, whose body was found dumped at a viewpoint on the Outeniqua Pass last July.
Looking older than his 24 years De Koker, who pleaded guilty to robbery, rape and murder, was surrounded by weeping family members, including his visibly distraught mother Marlene. Dressed in a white shirt and fleece jacket, sharply in contrast to earlier court appearances when his attire was more flashy, De Koker held back his emotions as magistrate Marius Fourie handed down sentence.
However, as soon as his case had been completed, De Koker was taken into a court corridor where five of his family members cried openly, eliciting tears from the killer. Coetzee‘s uncle, who did not want to be named, said he was angry and that De Koker must “voetsek” (get out of my sight). De Koker entered a plea bargain after admitting to attacking and killing Coetzee, 20, who had just relocated from Gauteng to George.
At her funeral in Heidelberg in Gauteng, her father Steph described Coetzee as having a “smile that would brighten a room”. He said his daughter returned to the Southern Cape to work after falling in love with the area as a child.
She wanted to get away from the violence and crime in Pretoria where she used to live.
Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions JC Gerber yesterday said Coetzee approached De Koker on July 11 last year for help as he was walking home from the Fancourt Hotel where he did casual work.
She told De Koker her bakkie was stuck in the mud and asked him to help her get it started. She also phoned her employer to say she would be late for work. After helping her, De Koker asked Coetzee for a lift to town but at the Oudtshoorn/George intersection, he threatened her with a knife and forced her to drive up the Outeniqua Pass.
Coetzee drove to the viewpoint, where De Koker took her cell- phone and R100 before raping her. According to De Koker‘s statement read in court, on realising what he had done, he stabbed Coetzee. Evidence showed that she was stabbed several times.
After killing Coetzee, De Koker drove her bakkie towards George, throwing away the knife before abandoning the vehicle at the bottom of the pass.
De Koker was arrested the following day after police interviewed staff at a petrol station from where he made an anonymous call to inform them of the body left at the viewpoint.
After his arrest, De Koker was sent to Valkenberg psychiatric hospital in Cape Town for assessment after claiming to have heard voices in his head. He was declared fit to stand trial at a court hearing on November 13.
In February, prosecutor Michel Heyns asked that the court hearing be postponed to allow for discussions with Gerber regarding a plea bargain. Blanco resident Lorraine van Schalkwyk said she was delighted to hear of De Koker‘s sentence.
“It is about time. Blanco will be a much better place without him.”
De Koker has a previous criminal record, having appeared in court on various charges between 2001 and 2007, including assault and possession of an illegal firearm.