The ‘killers’ who are accused of murdering a British engineer’s sister-in-law before subjecting him and his wife to two hours of torture during a raid on their South African farm have appeared in court.
Devastated David Thomas, 68, has waited nearly two years for the brutal gang accused of shooting dead Heila Kilian, 63, to face trial for her murder.
In April 2018 David’s teacher wife Brenda, 63, had welcomed her elder sister Heila to their homestead just outside Still Bay the day before she was blasted to death in cold blood.
Sakhumzi Benya, 29, Nkosihethu Nocuza, 25, Msomi Nikani, 25, Monwabisi Maki, 23, and Xolusani Myoyi, 29, all pleaded not guilty to murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and malicious damage to property and theft when they appeared before Judge Lister.
They all face a minimum life sentence behind bars if found guilty of the charges.
(From left to right) Sakhumzi Benya, 29, Nkosihethu Nocuza, 25, Msomi Nikani, 25, Monwabisi Maki, 23, and Xolusani Myoyi, 29, all pleaded not guilty to murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition and malicious damage to property and theft
Mother-of-four Heila Kilian, 63, (left) was shot through the heart when a group attacked them in South Africa. Her sister Brenda, 63, and her sister’s partner David Thomas, 68, were tortured for two hours before Brenda managed to escape
Ms Kilian had come to visit the family in South Africa in April 2018. She is pictured enjoying lunch with them in a selfie taken by Mr Thomas
Father-of-two David had been playing the guitar as family friend Shaun Vorster, 53, cooked chicken kebabs for the group of four over open coals and had just served up at 10pm.
As the happy group toasted each other with glasses of red wine five black men wearing orange boiler suits and balaclavas and masks suddenly appeared out of the darkness with guns.
A moving video taken by Brit David just minutes before Heila was murdered shows her and her sister Brenda toasting him with glasses of red wine as their tenant Shaun cooks the food.
Shortly after this footage ends fun loving mother-of-four Heila was dead.
Mossel Bay High Court in Western Province heard that one of the men raised a pistol and walked up behind unsuspecting Heila and shot her dead from behind with a single shot.
Ms Kilian with her sister Ms Thomas. The happy group were attacked as they toasted each other with glasses of red wine around a camp fire
Ms Kilian and Ms Thomas at a campfire with family friend Shaun Vorster, 53, moments before they were attacked by five men
Ms Kilian pictured with her daughter Marika. Happy footage shows the mother enjoying her time in South Africa moments before her death
Ms Kilian, pictured enjoying lunch the day before her death, was shot through the heart
She collapsed instantly with a bullet straight through her heart onto the dinner table as the armed gang then attacked terrified David and his wife Brenda and their friend Shaun.
The three survivors were put through two hours of torture and beatings until brave Brenda managed to escape and the gang panicked and fled in David’s stolen Toyota Hilux.
They had forced Shaun to open his safe under threat of death and escaped with a number of hunting rifles, a shotgun, a pistol, hunting knives and £1600 in cash and Brenda’s jewellery
Victim Heila was left lying in a pool of her own blood by the barbecue as David and Shaun tried to free themselves from their bonds to then raise the alarm summoning the police.
David from Effingham, Surrey, and his wife Brenda and sister-in-law Heila and tenant Shaun were attacked at Gazania Farm which he ran as a coffee shop and Christian drop in centre.
The five men accused of her murder and torturing the others are pictured abve at court in Mossel Bay, South Africa
They face a sentence of life imprisonment if found guilty of the charges
(left to right) Msomi Nikani, 25, Monwabisi Maki, 23, and Xolusani Myoyi, 29, pictured in court
This is the farm in Still Bay, South Africa, where the family and friends were having a party before they were attacked by a gang
The men pictured with a stolen Toyota Hilux on CCTV. It was taken during the attack
It is a four hour drive from Cape Town on the Garden route popular with British tourists
Victim Mr Vorster told the court: ‘David was playing gospel music on his guitar and the ladies were sharing cell phones photos and I saw him just stand up and drop his guitar.
‘I could see fear in his eyes and at same time heard voices behind me and turned round and the attackers came straight for us and they had firearms that were pointed straight at us.
‘I dropped the casserole I was holding and they were on top of me and had a knee pushed into my back and a firearm pushed into the back of my head until I was on the ground.
‘I was told not to move and my mouth and nose was in the sand my arm up behind my back and then I heard a gunshot go off and then a sound like someone letting out a deep breath.
Ms Kilian enjoying a hug with her sister Ms Thomas. Victim Mr Vorster has told the court how he saw Mr Thomas drop his guitar when he saw the attackers approaching
Ms Kilian pictured arriving at George Airport in South Africa where she was greeted by her sister Ms Thomas and her sister’s husband
British engineer David Thomas and his wife Brenda (left and right) enjoying their time in South Africa. The couple will give evidence later in the trial
Ms Kilian smiling in family photos. A witness described hearing someone let off a ‘deep breath’ after a gunshot rang out at the farmstead in April 2018
Ms Kilian relaxes with her sister Ms Thomas on a double bed. Witness Mr Vorster said after they were tied up he heard Mr Thomas being thumped on the head repeatedly as the gang asked where the money had been hidden
‘I could hear David screaming in the background like a man being hurt and in a lot of pain.
‘We were tied up with a sort of wire and I could hear them hitting David on his head asking where the money was – thumping noises followed by excessive noises showing his pain.
‘I opened the safe but they just kept beating and beating until Brenda escaped and then they were gone and David and I got free and I raised the alarm at another farm’, he said.
Police and paramedics raced to the remote farm but nothing could be done to save Heila who was certified dead at the scene from a single gunshot that perforated her heart.
Divorced David met South African born Brenda when she working at a school in Dubai and he was working for a US corporation and they married 7 years ago on a visit to the UK.
Churchgoing David is a father-of-two grown up sons who live in the UK and divorcee Brenda has a grown up son from a previous marriage and they left South Africa after the murder.
Mr and Ms Thomas with Ms Kilian in the moments before her death. The five men charged face life imprisonment if they are found guilty of the crimes
British engineer David Thomas, 68, with his wife Brenda, 63, at their farm in South Africa where her sister was shot dead
The sisters hold up their glasses as they toast each other around a fire moments before they are attacked
Murdered Heila from Springs, near Johannesburg, was a loving mother-of-four grown up children and married to Hein, 76, a retired South African Police anti-riot squad commander.
Husband and wife David and Brenda will give their witness evidence later in the trial
In 2019 there were 552 attacks on outlying farms affecting over 1000 people many of whom were horrifically tortured with hot irons, blow torches and power tools with 57 murdered.