Monday 20 October 2014

Pensioner 'shocked' as judge convicts him of family murder

Stewart MacLean

Published 20/11/2012 | 05:00

A PENSIONER who shot dead his daughter and her Irish husband in South Africa was "shocked and surprised" to be convicted of their murders, his lawyer has said.

Erwin Poppinger (76) was found guilty last week of killing his daughter Kim (34) and her Dublin-born husband Kevin McGuirk (54) at their home near Johannesburg.

The retired engineer admitted shooting the pair at close range as they got ready for bed following a row on August 15, 2011.

A judge rejected a claim he had done so in self-defence and convicted Poppinger of double murder.

The pensioner's lawyer, Neels Kotze, said his client had been shocked by the verdict, which could see the German-born killer spend the rest of his life in jail.

Disappointed

Mr Kotze said: "My client had argued all along that his actions were in self-defence. He was shocked and surprised to be convicted of the murders and is very disappointed."

He said Poppinger was now waiting at home until sentencing, which is likely to take place in December or January.

He added: "The court has adjourned now to consider sentencing.

"Obviously my client is old and there is a lot at stake if he is given a custodial sentence."

A judge at Johannesburg High Court last week freed Poppinger on bail following his conviction. He was ordered to reappear on Thursday for a sentencing hearing, but that is likely to be postponed.

Poppinger had previously told a magistrate how he blasted his daughter and son-in-law with a pistol after bursting into their bedroom at the house the trio shared in the town of Alberton near Johannesburg.

Mr McGuirk and his wife died instantly in the brutal attack.

Poppinger then spent a night with their bodies in the bungalow before handing himself in to police the following morning. He was arrested and spent several weeks on remand in prison before being released on bail.

The trial heard Mr McGuirk, a father of five, had married his second wife, Kim, in 2008 after meeting on holiday in South Africa.

The couple ran a dive school from the bungalow they shared with Poppinger, a widower who moved to Johannesburg from Germany more than 50 years ago.

It emerged during the trial that Mrs McGuirk had applied for a restraining order against her father in the days before her death.

Poppinger claimed he shot the couple only in self-defence amid a violent row over unpaid household bills. But the court heard Mr McGuirk was naked and defenceless at the time of the shooting.

Legal sources have said it was likely the court could take several weeks to decide how to sentence Poppinger.

The elderly murderer could face a lengthy jail sentence after being convicted of the killings.

However, it is likely his defence team will argue his advanced years and the domestic nature of the crime mean he poses no threat to society and should escape jail.

Irish Independent

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