The search for a missing person was halted on Sunday afternoon with the discovery of a body in the open area behind no5 shaft.
Mr Mervin van Heerden was officially declared missing on Friday afternoon 3 August, when police found his abandoned vehicle at the old Evander dumping site. The dumping site did not render any clues to the disappearance of Mr van Heerden.
The police made a breakthrough with the arrest of two suspects. This led to the discovery of the body on Sunday. One of the police officers told the Bulletin that they worked non-stop to resolve the case.
On Thursday afternoon the police were called to the Karmer butchery in Evander when someone reported an assault taking place. The caller said that Van Heerden was being assaulted. The police investigated but could not find any evidence of the assault nor could they find Van Heerden.
SAPS then received a tip-off that Van Heerden was murdered. Again, the investigation was fruitless.
The discovery of Van Heerden’s car, however, was a turning point in their investigation. The car led the police back to the butchery where a crime scene was discovered and a man and a woman were arrested. One of the suspects allegedly then cooperated with the police and took them to where a body was found.
The police still needed to identify the body as it was very badly burned. The body was discovered in an old abandoned pipe. The pipe had to be cut open to be able to remove the body. Members of Govan Mbeki Municipality had the task of removing the body.
A search party was organized by Mr Andries Lee of Delta1 rescue for Sunday morning. Delta1 assist the police with search and rescue on a regular basis. The Bulletin was also included in the search party. Upon arrival at the gathering point, the team learned that the police may have made a breakthrough and may have discovered the body.
Sunday proved to be a long “waiting” day as the police continued their interrogations and investigations. Later during the day, one of the suspects took the police to where the car had been found as well as to where the body was found.
The Bulletin learned that the case of Mr van Heerden might not be as clear-cut as it seems. There are allegations of domestic violence made against Van Heerden as well as complaints made by him in turn. The Bulletin also learned that there was a legal battle for the custody of the butchery and that Van Heerden was successful in regaining full control of the butchery during last week.
The police are handling all allegations and are treating them all seriously in order to conclude their investigation.
SAPS should be applauded for their hard work in solving this case and their continued effort to finalise their investigations for a watertight case.
Ms Karen van Heerden, his ex-wife, and an employee, Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk appeared before Magistrate C Roos. The accused’s’ bail applications were heard in two separate hearings. Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk applied for legal aid and consultations had to be finalised first.
The hearings took place just before the lunch break. Accused number one, Mrs Karen van Heerden, denied any involvement in the murder. She also stated that she is well known within the community and have property in Evander as well as valuable movable assets.
The Magistrate, C Roos agreed that she does not pose a flight risk. The state did not oppose her application and she was released and warned to appear in court on the 13th of September.
Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk’s application for bail was opposed by the state stating that the young man poses a flight risk.
Captain Malotswa from the SAPS also stated that Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk did not disclose his address in Jan Kempdorp, close to Kimberly. They also claim that he aided in the clean-up and disposal of the body. The charges stated that he was a murder accused.
The magistrate agreed that Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk has a steady job in Evander (at the butchery) and that he is now staying in Evander on a permanent basis. He does not pose a flight risk. Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk’s application was therefore successful and he was released and warned to appear in court on the 13th of September.
Both Mrs Karen van Heerden and Mr Darrello Lutgie Soetmelk did not plead as no formal charges were brought against them.
A third suspect has been identified and is still at large.
Blue gloves floating in the water at the crime scene is a stark reminder of what happened earlier.