“The second shot had been fired into the back of the neck as the body lay on the ground”
This is a most unusual case in which the killer claimed that the victim had wanted, indeed begged, to be murdered. Baron Dieter von Schauroth was a 36-year-old farmer, well known on the Cape Town social scene where he lived with his 19-year-old wife Colleen in a flat in Mill Street, Gardens. The couple were seen at fashionable nightclubs on a regular basis. In 1960 von Schauroth had been forced to sell his flock of 4,000 karakul sheep to avert a financial crisis. On 24 March 1961 von Schauroth left home at 5.30pm on business in a car he had borrowed from his sister-in-law, telling his wife to be ready at 8pm to a promised trip to the cinema. She was never to see him alive again.
Just after 7.30 the next morning von Schauroth’s body was discovered at the side of the Old Malmesbury Road, 24 km (15 mi) from Cape Town. There were two bullet wounds in the neck. A number of uncut diamonds were scattered around the corpse. The police found his car at Milnerton, 11 km (7 mi) north of Cape Town. There was no blood inside. Three days after the murder, the police arrested Martinus Rossouw, a flamboyant, 23-year-old railway fitter, nicknamed Killer, who had a penchant for dressing as a cowboy. At a hearing it was revealed that von Schauroth had insured his life for R360,000, paying all the premiums in cash.
The trial of Marthinus Rossouw began in September 1961 at Cape Town Criminal Sessions before Judge-President Mr Justice Beyers. The defence counsel, Mr W.E. Cooper, said that Rossouw would admit killing the baron but under extenuating circumstances. He said that the baron was unhappy with his young wife and in financial difficulties. However, if he committed suicide, his insurance policies would be invalidated so the baron asked Rossouw to kill him. Rossouw claimed, “He often told me he was very unhappy because of his wife. He had found out she was going out with other men. I knew his wife before I got married. I used to go to nightclubs and saw her there in the company of men. I came to the conclusion she was not a decent girl.” He said that Rossouw had given him a cheque for R2,300. That was the real motive said Mr van den Berg, the Attorney-General, and a ballistics expert added, “I cannot exclude the possibility that after one shot had been fired, the second shot had been fired into the back of the neck as the body lay on the ground.” Rossouw had no explanation for the diamonds scattered about the body.
Old Malmesbury Road, near Cape Town, South Africa
Friday 24 March 1961
On 27 September 1961, the jury retired to consider its verdict. After less than an hour, they returned a verdict of guilty. Marthinus Rossouw was hanged at Pretoria Central Prison on 20 June 1962.
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
As Rossouw walked to the gallows, he sang Nearer My God to Thee. Apart from one payment of R20,000 the insurance companies refused to pay out on von Schauroth’s policies.