The Stellenbosch saying: Meet the detectives who have secured the convictions of Van Breda, Rohde and Cornelius


"There will always be two high-profile murders in Stellenbosch each year," says sergeant Stephen Adams, 42, as he leans forward.

"At least two per year: [One in the] first six months and [one in the] last six months. "

There follows a brief silence as he considers what he has just said before continuing, "We still believe it."

While standing, Adams stands by Colonel Deon Beneke, 45, Deputy Station Commander of the Police Corps in Stellenbosch, in the direction of Sergeant Marlon Appolis, 41, where he takes a cigarette.

"We all have that [belief]"Adams adds as he lights the cigarette.

Beneke is silent before Appolis sits next to him: "It's like a charm over Stellenbosch."

In an interview with News24 at Benekes backyard in Wellington – about 30 minutes away from Stellenbosch – the three detectives explained how they successfully solved four high-ranking murder cases in the region: the Van Breda family of De Zalze Estate, a student of Stellenbosch University Hannah Cornelius , Guesthouse owner Marie Verwey and most recently Susan Rohde – the wife of real estate mogul Jason Rohde.

Adams during the trail of Henri Van Breda's trial

Adams Testifies at a Western Cape High Court Trial. (Jaco Marais / Photo24 / Gallo Images / Getty Images)

The murders, at least one every year since 2015, caught the attention of the public when cruel details were revealed in the Western Cape High Court over the course of a few months.

In July 2018, the court was convicted Henri van Breda, 23, was sentenced to three life imprisonments for murdering his mother, father and brother with an ax on the estate in 2015. The motive for the murder is still unknown.

Months later, in November, Three were jailed for murdering Hannah Cornelius at the age of 21The naked body was found at Groenhof Farm in May 2017, about 20 minutes outside of Stellenbosch, where she had been raped and stabbed.

In February Marie Verweys Caregivers and three accomplices were sent to prison because they had met the 81-year-old 61 times while in February 2017 she was in her wheelchair in Paradyskloof, Stellenbosch.

And two weeks later Jason Rhode, 49, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for strangling and strangling his wife Susan Rohde, 47, died in July 2016 at the age of 22 in a hotel near Stellenbosch.

As he puffs his cigarette, Adams says they are still anticipating the next high-profile case that will reach their desk this year.

Jeffrey Zetler, 62, owner of the much-loved Stellenbosch Strawberry Farm, Mooiberge, was stabbed to death on his wife's birthday in June 2018.

"If it's a new year, we would say," Okay, the first one for 2019 has yet to come, "says Adams," when or where we do not know. "

Beneke, Adams and Appolis with the Henri van Breda

Beneke, Adams and Appolis with the indictment team Henri van Breda (Twitter, @SAPoliceService)

The key to murder, says Appolis, is to join the dots and find out where they made mistakes. "You never find the perfect murder."

The detectives, who have more than 50 years of police service experience, say they feel confirmed after successfully completing the murders.

The chief of police at Western Cape recently thanked them for their commitment to the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Beneke, who originally came from Robertson, Boland, said when he arrived at the Stellenbosch police station in 2014, there was a widespread belief that the station was unable to resolve high-profile murders.

"We [were] inscribed: "Stellenbosch, you'll screw it up [Henri’s] Case again: "Wherever you go you would say another Inge Lotz."

He referred to Lotz, a 22-year-old master student who was found dead in March 2005 in her home in Welgevonden, Stellenbosch. She had been stabbed in the chest.

Her friend Fred van der Vyver was arrested for her murder, but was found guilty when it was revealed in court that the police were fabricating evidence against him.

Adams, Appolis and Beneke were not at the Stellenbosch police station at the time.

"Now her [are] I'll think twice before saying Inge Lotz again because we've proven it wrong, "says Appolis.

Towards the end of the interview, Adams said that he had mostly been silent during the conversation, occasionally commenting on what his colleagues said. He said he believes detectives have a sixth sense for delivering murders.

"Wherever your mind leads you, you follow your meaning." As an example, he referred to "Tannie Verwey," who was killed by her caregiver.

He said that there was no evidence at the scene, but that they had joined the points when they discovered a vehicle that had been detected on CCTV recordings in front of Verwey's house at the time of her murder – parked in front of the nurse's home.

"Three o'clock in the morning we decided to go to Paarl (to the nurse's house) and the case was torn open: three o'clock that morning without any hints, nothing."

Adams and Appollis outside the Western Cape High c

Adams and Appolis in front of the Western Cape High Court (Twitter, @SAPoliceService)

All three mentioned that the adrenalin and the sense of justice make them return to the police.

During an exam, they would easily work up to 24 hours a day, they said. "We never turn off."

Beneke, who was the commanding officer during the investigation, said Adams or Appolis could expect a call at any time of the day – even at night.

"If I want something done, you can ask them, I will not take no or promise to answer."

Appolis, who raises a five-year-old girl, says he is often annoyed at the lies that killers say in court, and he fears for the safety of his child, but remains under the police's obligation.

"For me it's just about giving answers to a family and helping them to close what happened. [I am] not much worried about the media business. "

Before apologizing for going to a family reunion in Stellenbosch before the Springbok rugby match, Adams adds that he came to police duty at the time many of his friends came to him.

"[But] Now it's my calling, "Adams says as he walks away.

His Bakkie drives into the landscape at the Cape, where the next Stellenbosch murderer could roam the streets. "When or where we do not know."