Durban -- Mathew Naidoo was a pathological liar who began plotting the murder of his girlfriend's parents when her father rejected him as a suitable partner for her, the Durban High Court heard yesterday.
Judge Shyam Gyanda said this when he found Naidoo, 25, Nicolette Lotter, 29, and her brother Hardus, 23, guilty of murdering the siblings' parents, Maria Magdalena "Rickie" Lotter, 52, and Johannes Petrus "Johnny" Lotter, 53, in their Durban home on July 19, 2008.
Sentencing proceedings begin on Monday.
The siblings, who pleaded not guilty to the double murder, admitted to killing their parents.
They said they were under Naidoo's influence.
He convinced them he was the third son of God and had prophetic powers and that God wanted their parents dead for their sins.
Naidoo denied telling them this.
Gyanda said it was abundantly clear from letters authored by Naidoo that he had portrayed himself as the third son of God.
The judge said the question had been asked many times in the trial about how it was possible for educated, sophisticated people in a middle-class, church-going family to allow themselves to be influenced.
He recalled that expert witness, clinical psychologist professor Lourens Schlebusch, had told the court this sort of brainwashing had been used to "remould" and "realign" religious people – doctors, lawyers, businessmen – to get them to do things considered stupid.
The judge said the Lotters' belief in Naidoo's powers was a mitigating circumstance, and may or may not have resulted in them having diminished criminal capacity. "But certainly not exclude them from criminal liability," he said. He believed the killings began when Johannes Lotter refused to accept Naidoo as a consort for his daughter. The judge said another turning point was when the parents had money stolen, and the police were called in. A quarrel between Maria Lotter and Naidoo had followed. The court had heard she called him a "dark horse". The judge said Naidoo was trying to fleece the Lotters and access Nicolette's inheritance. Hardus, who had been instructed by Naidoo to commit suicide after the murder, was the fall guy, the judge said.
Nicolette was fertile ground for Naidoo's thought processes. She believed her domestic worker was practising witchcraft on her and that she was being "spiritually raped" by a tokoloshe.
Her parents did not believe she was being affected by black magic.
They warned her pastor, whom she had wanted to turn to for help that she was seeking attention.
She eventually met Naidoo and the spirit left her when they had sex.
The judge said Naidoo clearly saw her vulnerability and the opportunity to take advantage of her.
Her brother was initially wary of Naidoo but "eventually Hardus regarded Naidoo as the brother that he did not have.
He was fertile ground in which to plant ideas", the judge said.