Eight people have been charged with the brutal rape and murder of a lesbian couple.
South African spouses Joey van Niekerk, 32, and Anisha van Niekerk, 30, went missing on December 10, after leaving home for a funeral.
They never arrived at the burial in Pretoria, and an appeal was launched after they didn’t come back to their home in Mooinooi, in the north-east of the country.
Their burned-out car was found six days after they left home – and on December 28, bones thought to be theirs were discovered along a road near the couple’s home town.
Joey and Anisha had been married for three years.
The accused have been charged with two counts of murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, unlawful possession of firearm and defeating the course of justice, the African News Agency has reported.
The eight who will face trial on Thursday are Aaron Sithole, 23, Koos Strydom, 53, Jack Mokotedi, 18, Alex Mudau, 36, Moses Rakubu, 33, Vincent Strydom, 29, Maruschka Opperman, 18, and Mercia Witney Van Rooi, 21.
Wynand van Niekerk, Anisha’s brother, wrote on Facebook that the last few weeks had been “a nightmare”.
In April last year, lesbian Nonkie Smous was raped, murdered and set on fire in a case which shocked the country.
Cindy Maotoana, who chairs an LGBT group in Limpopo, said her community was being targeted – especially lesbians, many of whom have been so-called ‘corrective raped’.
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Maotoana said: “LGBTI [people] are hiding because they are scared of being raped and being brutally burned…so we are here asking support from the province.”
Speaking in May, she added: “Nothing is wrong with us. We do not need to be killed.
She pleaded that her sexuality “does not mean someone has to rape and kill me or even burn me.
“Can you imagine someone being burned alive? It is not good what they are doing to us.”
Speaking in December, Smous’s friend Nthabiseng Mokanyane said: “Since Nonkie’s death, people feel they can get away with everything.
“Women identifying as butch lesbians are particularly singled out – being harassed for thinking they are ‘men’ and being threatened about the need to be ‘taught they are women’.”
Many took to social media to pay tribute to the couple.
One wrote: “A lesbian couple from Mooinooi in the #northwest are believed to have been raped, murdered & set alight, allegedly by seven men.
“They never arrived at their destination.”
Others accused media outlets of erasing their lesbian identity.
One Twitter user wrote: “Some newspapers omitted that they were a couple, not ok.
“Violence against #lesbian s yet again un/mis reported.”
The man who was allegedly behind the brutal torture, rape, murder and burning said that he was “good friends” with the couple.
Brits Magistrate’s Court in South Africa heard that he had a “very good relationship” with South African spouses Joey van Niekerk, 32, and Anisha van Niekerk, 30.
“They always came to visit me at the shop,” said the accused – who cannot be named until he enters a plea – before adding: “I also helped them with their horses.”
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Joey and Anisha went missing on December 10, after leaving home for a funeral.
Earlier this month, 23-year-old lesbian Noxolo Xakeka was murdered in a homophobic attack.
Two lesbians were last year abused and violently attacked on their way to Dallas Pride.
The attacker punched and stabbed them as he screamed that they were going to hell.
A drunken thug was recently jailed for stamping on the heads of a lesbian couple in a vile homophobic attack.
A lesbian couple was last year viciously attacked in front of their home by their own neighbours.
But a group of lesbian women who were brutally beaten up recently condemned the response by police who they said let their attackers drive off in taxis.