Homeless man’s killing was ‘collateral damage’ in feud, says friend

Homeless man Nigel Bantam holds up the Bible of his late friend Johannes Maarman, who was stabbed and bludgeoned to death near his shack in a bush in Brackenfell. Picture: Soyiso Maliti

The 58-year-old homeless man who was stabbed and bludgeoned to death in Brackenfell recently was collateral damage to a long-standing feud between his homeless neighbours and a group of five men.

This is according to Nigel Bantam, friend and neighbour of Johannes “The Timer” Maarman.

Five men, aged 18, 18, 20, 39 and 42, were arrested after Mr Maarman was stabbed in his back and hit with a brick on his head, Brackenfell police spokesperson Captain Erica Crous said in a recent statement.

“I have known him for six years. He lived here before me. He was here for 16 years in this bush,” Mr Bantam said.

He described his late friend as a pious Christian man, whose favourite pastime was breaking down parables to those around him.

Mr Maarman’s family resides in Scottsdene. Northern News attempted to track them down, but had no luck.

Mr Bantam appeared distraught and subdued under the 31 degrees celcius heat on Saturday, and spoke of Mr Maarman with teary eyes. He stood guard for the five structures behind the Shoprite warehouse bordering Northpine and Brackenfell.

Mr Bantam said he, a friend of his and his brother, who has just been out of prison, were confronted by the group of men whose leader allegedly attempted to “get him back into gang stuff”.

He said he suspects that “unfinished business” between his brother, whom he did not wish to name to protect him, and an alleged 28s gang boss may be behind their feud, which led to the death of Mr Maarman, an innocent by-stander.

“We bumped into one of the five men in Northphine, where he signalled to us he was going to catch us,” Mr Bantam said, gesticulating the slitting of a throat with his index finger sliding across his neck.

“Not long ago after that, this (the killing) happened. We were hanging out with my brother on Saturday (January 22), our friend and a little boy, and this group came out of nowhere.”

He said three men from the group approached them directly, while two others approached them from a periphery position.

“We could see that they were coming straight to us. So we walked back to our structures, and they started throwing rocks at us.”

He said the men also had a firearm, which jammed when they attempted to shoot.

Mr Bantam says he shouted instructions to Mr Maarman, who was standing a stone’s throwaway from the fracas, to run to the main road and leave the bush. He said the suspects caught Mr Maarman as he was trying to jump a fence to take refuge in his shack.

“We started fighting back. It was three of us against all five of them and they all were armed with knives and a gun,” he said, mentioning the ringleader by full name and surname.

Northern News has withheld the alleged ringleader’s name as the formal bail hearing has not taken place.

NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila did not respond to two queries, including confirmation of the names of the suspects, interspersed with a reminder via text, WhatsApp text and attempts to call him.

Captain Crous had not been able to get hold of the investigating officers Sergeant Arnold Woodward, Sergeant Mervin Bezuidenhout and Warrant Officer Raymond Saville at the time of writing.

“They caught (Mr Maarman) on the fence, stabbed him on the back and hit him a couple of times on the head with a brick,” Mr Bantam said. “We could do nothing because we were outnumbered.”

Describing Mr Maarman, Mr Bantam said: “He was a father to us. He did not bother anyone. All he did was spend time reading the Bible, if he was not scavenging food, which he shared with everyone.

“His death has affected me a lot. I miss him. I had a dream about him asking me whether I had read the Bible today,” he said, whipping out Mr Maarman’s Bible, which bears his name on the first page.

In the Bible is hand-written: “Johannes Maarman knows the truth and why we do such things that are meaningless.”