At least what we know - for now.
Franz Jooste(n), was born around 1673 in Lippstadt, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Franz was a German soldier and later a builder. He emigrated to South Africa in the year 1693 and became a farmer.
Around 1706, Franz married Maria Mouton, born 1690 in Middelburg, Zeeland, Netherlands (her parents were French) and lived on the farm named Bartholomeus Klip (situated in the Swartland area in the Western Cape province of South Africa) in commemoration of the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of the Hugenots in France in 1572. The farm was granted to Franz in 1705. Franz owned two slaves, Titus of Bengale and Fortuijn of Angola.
Franz was known, in his local community at least, as “Schurfde Franz” which in context translates to “mean Franz”. It is said that Franz was an exceptionally hard worker and an excellent provider. After nine years of marriage there was a domestic strife and Franz was murdered. We are not able to determine how Franz treated Maria but that was not primarily her reason for killing him. Maria was unhappy that Franz didn’t buy her new clothes in the nine years they were married. The landdrost (magistrate) of Stellenbosch considered it to be a frivolous reason…
Based on Franz’s sobriquet and Maria’s testimony I think it is safe to assume that Franz lacked a certain refinement that may displeased Maria. This led Maria to having a surreptitious adulterous relationship with one of Franz’s slaves, Titus of Bengale.
To assist Titus on the farm, Franz leased another young slave, Pieter, form his neighbour Dirk Bronske. Pieter wasn’t docile like the other slaves. One day Franz whipped Pieter with a sjambok (whip) for being insolent. Pieter threatened to retaliate by hitting Franz back. Pieter intimated that he would return to his previous owner, Dirk. Pieter absconded.
By this time Maria and the slave Titus lived in concubinage for three years. Maria felt that she had more in common with the slaves as she did with Franz. It is now that Maria hatched a devious plan. With Pieter leaving Franz’s employ in such an antagonistic way and Dirk unaware of the facts, she would approach Pieter to do the vile deed and kill Franz. Turns out that fate came to Maria’s rescue. Pieter was already lurking in the area, not to seek retribution against Franz but to escape from bondage. Franz unintentionally discovered Pieter sleeping under a large rock on his farm, known to in folklore as Klipheuwel.
Maria made Pieter an offer she was sure he cannot resist – which he did.
Being the perfect gentleman, Titus consoled with Maria with an offer to kill Franz himself. Titus’ plan was simple, to shoot Franz in the wheat field when Franz was vulnerable and alone. In such a rugged area, with runaway slaves, VOC deserters, wild animals and belligerent Khoikhois, many a farmer mysteriously vanished over the years, never to be found again. The co-conspirators hoped that they will be able to convince the authorities that is what happened.
The opportunity presented itself unexpectedly on the unbearable hot afternoon of 3 January 1714. The bickering between Franz and Maria started. Their fracas began to crescendo which ended up in Franz chasing Maria out of the house with a stick. Titus that should have been cleaning the threshing floor, was instead nearby observing her predicament. Maria cried out for help.
Titus charged into the house, grabbed Franz’s musket. He fired. Franz was wounded but turned his attention to Titus now. Fortuijn now aided. He picked up a plough tail, a “ploeg stokken“, and smashed it into Franz’s neck. Unsure if Franz was dead, he hit Franz another three times.
Franz was dead. Titus and Fortuijn dragged Franz’s body and stuffed it into a porcupine lair.
The trio was subject to two separate sets of interrogation, first in May and then it is thought July. Finally, on 25 July, Maria admitted that her two slaves had committed the villainous deed but denied complicity.
The slaves (including Pieter) where thrown in the Castle’s infamous “donkergat” and a listener was placed close enough to their cell(s) to eavesdrop on their conversation. The ultimate coup de grâce had been overlooked, a five-year-old boy, Jacobus Jooste(n), Maria’s eldest son. The magistrate dispatched his deputy, Hartwick Hinrich Rickert to sweet talk the boy into disclosing what he had witnessed. Tiny Jacobus had been standing with Fortuijn when the attack commenced. He saw everything…
As part of the Standard Operating Procedure, both Maria and Titus would have to be subjected to torture. On 15 August 1714, both were tortured on the “pijnbank” (rack). Phase two on 15 August 1714 was the “pijnkamer” (torture room). Both Maria and Titus confessed before this was necessary but Fortuijn was more stubborn. He required a session in the torture room before he finally confessed.
At last the prosecutors possessed a coherent narrative of events and hence were ultimately able to pass sentence. It was death for all four. The modus operandi at the time was the most gruesome agonizing deaths.
Maria Mouton, from Middelburg, was bound to a pole, half-strangled, “geblaker” (scorched), and only then in excruciating pain fully strangled to death. Her body was then fixed to a forked post and displayed in public until it disintegrated. Maria was the only white woman to be executed in the Cape Colony for the murdering of her husband in the history of South Africa. Titus was impaled alive by having to sit on a stake. Upon death his head and hands were cut off and fixed on a pole for public display.