Hefty sentences for killers of biker Zelda van Niekerk on Cape Town highway_1

Two men have been sentenced to lengthy jail terms for robbing and killing biker Zelda van Niekerk while she stood next to the N1 highway near the Canal Walk shopping centre in Cape Town in 2018.

Lucien Ackerman, 34, will serve a life term and Michael Pietersen, 36, was given an effective 25 years in jail, in terms of a ruling by the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday.

A third accused, Elton Abrahams, has pleaded not guilty and is expected to go on trial later this month.

In her sentencing, Judge Gayaat Salie-Hlophe said it was horrific that Van Niekerk had brazenly been killed in broad daylight with passing traffic in sight.

Van Niekerk, 45, was the founder of “Bikers with a Cause”, a group of female bikers who volunteered their time and donated to charitable causes.

On September 28, 2018, she had parked her bike under a bridge on the highway to wait for some members of the group so they could escort a friend’s son to his matric farewell in Fish Hoek.

In their plea explanations, Ackerman and Pietersen admitted that their drugs had run out on that day and that they had decided to go to Summer Greens to try find someone to rob.

When that didn’t pan out, they made their way back to where they lived in Factreton. Ackerman was carrying a gun which belonged to his cousin, a gang member.

On the way, they saw Van Niekerk next to the highway with her helmet on and a cellphone in her hand.

Pietersen grabbed her backpack, but she resisted and tried unsuccessfully to flag passing vehicles.

Ackerman said he had his gun out to scare her, but panicked and shot her so she would stop resisting.

The gunshot wound to her stomach was fatal and the men fled to Ackerman’s home, where they found R3,000 in Van Niekerk’s wallet.

They divided their spoils equally and left other items with Ackerman.

“You went about that day like wolves, walking through nearby areas looking for a victim, armed with a firearm to rob at all costs,” said Salie-Hlophe in her judgment.

“The executions of these crimes were done in a gruesome and violent manner… you could easily have overpowered her and left her life intact.”

Both men confessed to being gang members within prison surroundings.

Pietersen had five previous convictions for theft, possession of illegal drugs and resisting arrest.

Salie-Hlophe sentenced him to 20 years in jail for murdering Van Niekerk and 10 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Five years of the murder sentence would run concurrently with his robbery sentence.

Ackerman had three previous convictions for housebreaking and theft, two for possession of illegal drugs and one each for malicious damage to property, trespassing and assault.

He had received a suspended sentence for assault a month before the murder.

Besides his life term for Van Niekerk’s murder, Salie-Hlophe also gave him 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances, 10 years for illegal possession of a firearm and five years for illegal possession of ammunition.

These would run concurrently.

The National Prosecuting Authority welcomed the sentences.

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