Article: Baldwin Ndaba
Pictures: Doug Lee
Courtesy of The Star
Alec Steenkamp was murdered with a hammer and buried in a shallow grave. His family waited nine years for justice. The then Brixton murder and robbery police did not believe Andrea Steenkamp when she insisted her husband’s murderer was the police informant Ken Downey.
Downey was questioned about the murder but not charged until Steenkamp’s daughter Samantha hired Christian Botha, an East London-based private investigator, last October.
Alec’s skeletal remains were exhumed on October 27 in Downey’s house at 75B Putney Street, Brixton. Downey fled to Mozambique, but 11 days later he handed himself over, claiming that his mother, Shirley Downey (64), had murdered Alec.
Yesterday Downey was sentenced to life in prison for murdering Steenkamp – a crime he still denies having committed. He was given another six years for burying Steenkamp in a shallow grave, and six more for stealing Steenkamp’s car on September 16 1996. Giving his verdict in the Johannesburg High Court, Judge Percy Blieden said the State had proved beyond any reasonable doubt that it was Downey, not his mother, who had murdered Steenkamp.
Judge Blieden also said that the murder had been premeditated.
He drew that inference from the testimony of Downey’s domestic worker Elizabeth Nozici Befu, who said that the grave was dug a week before Steenkamp was murdered. Steenkamp was killed while he was at Downey’s house in Brixton to collect money Downey owed his brother, Tom Steenkamp.
After hearing that evidence, Judge Blieden ruled that Downey couldn’t pay his debt – which amounted to thousands of rands – and so opted to kill Steenkamp. The court also accepted Befu’s statement that she had cleaned Steenkamp’s blood from Downey’s wall.
She also saw a piece of carpet cut out in Downey’s lounge and later saw it rolled up outside the house. Judge Blieden also accepted her testimony that the grave had later been covered over.
“There was substance in [Befu’s] testimony. She told exactly what she had seen. She did not detract from her main evidence,” Blieden said.
Befu’s testimony and Shirley Downey’s personal doctor helped the court to convict Downey.
Dr Phillip Pincus said Shirley was having multiple medical problems, including back surgery, a year before Steenkamp was murdered.
Downey’s problems were compounded with expert witness Dr Louise Annemarie Matthys’ testimony.
Matthys told the court that a person needed to use massive force to inflict such depressed skull fractures on another human being.
Steenkamp suffered three fatal wounds to his skull.
Adding to Downey’s woes was his refusal to testify and set the record straight.
Concluding his judgement, Judge Blieden said he was satisfied the state had established a prima facie case against Downey. He quoted various case laws in support of his decision.
But drama unfolded when Steenkamp’s wife, Andrea, took the stand to testify in aggravation of sentence.
She looked at Downey and reminded him about the pain and grief he had caused her family, remarking that he had denied her husband an opportunity to see his grandchildren.
Some of Steenkamp’s relatives, who were seated in court, cried.
Earlier, Andrea also cried when Judge Blieden convicted Downey.
She screamed out: “Thanks, God!” Commenting after the sentence, Andrea said: “I am happy I can finally get my Alec.”
His skeletal remains were given to her yesterday. In due course, they are expected to be cremated.
Shallow Grave on Fox TV
The mystery of what happened to businessman Alec Steenkamp lay buried for 8 years in the back yard of a house in Brixton, Johannesburg. On the 19 September 1996 the 43 year old businessman disappeared without a trace. He was sent to collect money for his brother and was not seen since. Police were of no help to the family, suggesting that he may have ran off with the money and another woman. But his family refused to believe the police’s story. For 8 years his daughter, Samantha Steenkamp struggled to find out what exactly happened to her father. In 2004 she raised enough money and hired a private investigator, Christian Botha. Within 4 days Botha discovered what police were unable to for 8 years – the remains of Alec Steenkamp, buried in a shallow grave in the back yard of a house in Brixton. The house was owned by murder suspect, Kenneth Downey, who had since gone on the run.