Mariette Bosch

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Mariëtte Sonjaleen Bosch
Mariëtte Sonjaleen Bosch Wolmarans.jpg
Mariette Bosch
Born 1950
South Africa
Died 31 March 2001(2001-03-31) (aged 50–51)
Gaborone, Botswana
Cause of death Execution by hanging
Other names Mariëtte Wolmarans
Criminal penalty Death
Victims 1
Country Botswana
Date apprehended

Mariëtte Sonjaleen Bosch (1950 – 31 March 2001, later named Mariëtte Wolmarans[1]) was a South African woman who was executed in Botswana on 31 March 2001.[2]

Mariette Bosch was convicted for the murder of Maria Magdalene "Ria" Wolmarans, both members of the white expatriate community in Gaborone, in June 1996.[3][4][4] Bosch was the first white woman to be executed in Botswana, and was the fourth woman to be hanged since that country's independence.[5] Due to these two factors, the murder case received significant attention outside the country and was referred to as "Botswana's White Mischief".


Mariette Bosch was the daughter of an affluent liquor store owner in South Africa, and with her husband Justin had moved from South Africa to an expatriate community in Gaborone, the capital of neighbouring Botswana.[3] The Boschs moved to Botswana due to the lower crime rate and a bustling economy, and settled in Phakalane, a neighbourhood in Gaborone that was popular with affluent White South African expatriates and often referred to as "Little Sandton". Mariette Bosch became a member of the Gaborone Dutch Reformed Church and entered into the high society, becoming friends with Ria Wolmarans and her husband Marthinus "Tienie" Wolmarans.[6] Mariette Bosch had three children.[7]

In 1995, Justin Bosch died in an automobile accident, and shortly afterwards, Tienie Wolmarans and Mariette Bosch began having an affair.[3][7] The Wolmarans had separated in 1993 but had moved back in together the following year, despite Tienie Wolmarans promising Bosch that he would divorce his wife.[6]


In June 1996, Bosch travelled to Pietersburg in South Africa and received her father's pistol from one of her friends.[8] The following day she smuggled the gun into Botswana and committed the murder that evening with no witnesses.[6] Bosch entered the Wolmarans' residence, two blocks away from her own, by climbing a security wall and shooting Ria Wolmarans twice, hitting her in the stomach and ribs.[6]

Originally, police believed that the murder occurred in the process of a burglary, and they named no suspects..[3][6] Mariette Bosch told Judith Bosch, the sister of her late husband Justin, that she loved Tienie Wolmarans and wished to marry him.[7] Peter Morrall, author of Murder and Society, said "Mariette and Judith hated each other." Chris McGreal of The Guardian said that Judith Bosch "made no secret of her deep dislike of Mariette" and that it was not known why Mariette Bosch had confided her love for Tienie Wolmarans to Judith Bosch, but "it was a decision that was to cost her dear."[7][6] Judith Bosch had persuaded Mariette Bosch to give the gun to her and her husband, saying that she would give it back to Mariette's friend who was also a friend of theirs, and Mariette gave the murder weapon to Judith's husband.[3].[7] Three months after the killing, Mariette Bosch ordered a wedding dress from a designer in Pretoria, South Africa. Upon discovering the facts about the gun and the dress, Judith Bosch took the gun to the police. The police arrested Tienie Wolmarans on suspicion that he was involved in the murder of his wife, but he was released after one evening and was never charged.[6]

Legal process[edit]

Botswana prosecutors said that the murder encompassed "the four Ls of murder—love, loot, lust and loathing."[3] After Mariette Bosch's arrest,[7] Tienie Wolmarans married Mariette Bosch in 1997 and supported her.[3] Originally she was held in the Botswana Prison Service Lobatse Prison, Lobatse. Chris McGreal of The Guardian said "The trial was at times bizarre".[6] A psychologist serving the defense, Dr. Louise Olivier, had also worked as a magazine's "sex doctor."[6] A psychiatrist, who served as the defense expert witness, argued that Mariette Bosch did not have the profile of a killer and was not capable of lying.[7] McGreal said that Mariette Bosch's daughter cried in court and that her family "were horrified at the circus atmosphere".[6] On 13 December 1999,[9] Justice Isaac Aboagye of the Botswana High Court found Mariette Bosch guilty of Wolmarans' murder, and in February 2000 he sentenced her to death.[4]

In January 2001, she appealed. The British barrister Desmond da Silva represented her.[6] A panel of judges from the Commonwealth of Nations served as a court of appeal,[3] and the barrister for Mariette Bosch attempted to convince them that the Botswana government had not revealed, during the trial, that it had granted immunity to a suspect in exchange for testifying against her.[6] The judges came from England, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.[7] On 18 and 19 January 2001, the Botswana Appeal Court heard her appeal. The individuals hearing her appeal were acting Judge President of the Appeal Court Timothy Aguda, Appeal Judge Justice Tebbutt, and Chief Justice of Botswana Julian Nganunu, who served as ex officio member of that court. On Tuesday 30 January the court denied the appeal.[4] The judges said that Mariette Bosch's explanation of the case was not convincing. Greg Barrow of the BBC said "Many local people who turned out to hear the verdict celebrated the decision of the appeal court judges. Some danced and sang saying that Mrs Bosch will be rightfully punished for murder."[10]

At that stage, the only possibility of her being saved from execution would have been a pardon from President of Botswana Festus Mogae.[4] Barrow said "But, in a country where the government supports capital punishment, clemency is unlikely."[10] From 1966 until before Mariette Bosch's execution, 33 people had been executed in Botswana.[10] On the weekend before Bosch's execution, Mogae said that he did not consider giving clemency.[11]

While awaiting her death sentence, Mariette Bosch was imprisoned in the Gaborone Central Prison.[3] The Government of South Africa declined to intervene in the Bosch case.[12]

Up to the end, Mariette Bosch insisted that she did not kill Ria Wolmarans, did not show remorse, and accused a third party of being the real culprit.[13]


In Botswana, the mandatory punishment for murder is the death penalty.[13] After Mariette Bosch had spent one year on death row,[5] she was hanged at 5:30 (AM),[14] on the early morning of Saturday 31 March 2001.[11][2] The execution took place at the Central Maximum Prison in Gaborone.[5] Bosch's family and lawyers were not given advance notice of her death.[2] The day after the hanging occurred, Mariette Bosch's family drove to visit her when they learned about the hanging over the radio.[15] Tienie Wolmarans said he had attempted a scheduled visit the previous day, on a Friday, to give Mariette Bosch some things, but was told that there was an inspection, and so they were unable to conduct the visit. Mariette Bosch's death warrant was given that day. Tienie Wolmarans said that the prison authorities had lied to him.[14]

The Botswana criminal justice system does not have a designated last meal for the executed. No sedatives are given to a prisoner before execution. Joe Orebotse, a man who spoke on behalf of the commissioner of the Botswana prison system, said that a religious minister, a medical officer, a hangman, and prison officials were present, but that no relatives were permitted access.[11] In Botswana, relatives are not allowed at executions.[5]

Chris McGreal of The Guardian said that Mariette Bosch was "likely to be in an unmarked grave in the prison grounds."[14] Tienie Wolmarans said that he was not aware of the location of Mariette Bosch's grave. Mariette Bosch's lawyers said that she had been executed with an unusual quickness and criticized the execution.[14]


On 2 April 2001 President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki had been planning to launch a petition to get Mariette Bosch's death sentence overturned, not realizing that she had already been executed.[11] Interights, a non-governmental organisation based in the United Kingdom, and some undisclosed parties had argued that the execution was not fair. On Monday 8 December 2003 the office of the President of Botswana said that the execution of Mariette Bosch was not in contradiction of the African Commission on Human Rights and that the ACHR had ruled that Mariette Bosch's rights had not been violated by her being executed during the 34th Ordinary Session meeting that was held in The Gambia.[16]

Human rights groups from South Africa and other countries criticized the execution.[11] Amnesty International criticized her execution.[17] Amnesty International argued against the execution, stating that it had been conducted hastily and in secrecy to avoid further controversy, that the family was not aware of the execution until it had already happened, and that the execution was rushed after the appeal failed and as Mariette Bosch was asking for clemency from the President of Botswana.[13] The Botswana human rights organisation Ditshwanelo also criticized the execution.[18] Peter Morrall, author of Murder and Society, said that aside from human rights groups, "not much sympathy was offered to Bosch".[13]

Greg Barrow of the BBC said "The case has sent shock waves through the tightly-knit white community in Botswana. Few could understand why Mariette Bosch had jeopardised her comfortable life in Botswana by undertaking the premeditated murder of her best friend."[19] Morrall said that the case received more publicity in English speaking countries than cases involving a black African being convicted of murder or cases involving a black African being murdered. Her execution had the potential of attracting negative media attention, and there was the possibility that Botswana would not have wanted to have negative press regarding human rights.[13] McGreal said "But the Botswana government might just want to make the point that citizens of its large neighbour to the south – white and black – cannot turn the quiet suburbs of Gaborone into the Johannesburg they moved to escape",[6] referring to the high crime rate in Johannesburg.[13]

The case was compared with the book and film White Mischief,[13] and the atmosphere of wealthy White people in the colonial-era Kenya that the series depicted.[19] The book and film were based on a murder in Kenya in the World War II era involving a man, Sir Henry Delves Broughton, killing another man who becomes romantically involved with his wife. Therefore, people referred to it as "Botswana's white mischief".[15]

A documentary about the Bosch murder case had been made. In 2001 the Government of Botswana refused to broadcast it, saying that the documentary could result in litigation. After the decision, Chris Bishop, the head of the television news network of Botswana, resigned.[15]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Meyer, Lukas. "SA vrou veg in skadu van Botswana-galg." Rapport. 9 December 2000. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Penketh, Anne. "America and the world's executioners join efforts to block UN moves to end death penalty." The Independent. Thursday 15 November 2007. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bird, Maryann. "Until Death Us Do Part." TIME. Monday February 12, 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013. "Barring a presidential decree of clemency, Bosch—who still maintains she is innocent—would be the first white woman to be executed in Botswana's history."
  4. ^ a b c d e "Bosch loses appeal." News 24. 30 January 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d "Love-triangle murderer hanged." BBC. Monday 2 April 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m McGreal, Chris. "Love, loot, lust and loathing." The Guardian. Monday 22 January 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Morrall, p. 61.
  8. ^ "In the Court of Appeal[...]" p. 7.
  9. ^ "240/2001 – Interights et al (on behalf of Mariette Sonjaleen Bosch)/Botswana." (Archive) University of Minnesota. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Barrow, Greg. "South African woman to hang." BBC. Tuesday 30 January 2001. Retrieved on 27 March 2013.
  11. ^ a b c d e Warby, Vivian. "Murderess Mariette Bosch executed in Botswana." IOL News. 2 April 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  12. ^ "South Africa Must Stop Bosch Hanging." Comtex Africa News Service. 2 February 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013. Available at HighBeam Business. "The South African government will not intervene to save South African Mariette Sonjaleen Bosch from the gallows."
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Morrall, p. 62.
  14. ^ a b c d McGreal, Chris. "Outrage at secret Botswana hanging." The Guardian. Monday 2 April 2001. Retrieved on 10 April 2013.
  15. ^ a b c "Bosch film row." BBC. Wednesday 2 May 2001. Retrieved on 27 March 2013.
  16. ^ Staff Reporter. "Mariette Bosch's execution was 'fair'." Mail & Guardian. 9 December 2003. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  17. ^ ""Botswana: Amnesty International appalled by secret execution"". Archived from the original on December 11, 2008. Retrieved 2013-03-26.  . Amnesty International. 3 April 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  18. ^ "PRESS STATEMENT – BOTSWANA EXECUTION UPDATE APRIL 2001 EXECUTION OF MARIETTE SONJALEEN BOSCH." (Archive) Ditshwanelo. 2 April 2001. Retrieved on 26 March 2013.
  19. ^ a b "'White Mischief' trial begins." BBC. Thursday 18 January 2001. Retrieved on 27 March 2013.

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