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One is dead and now another is in jail, but the wife of a murdered Pinetown businessman, who died in a gun battle with three robbers, said she could not rest while a third suspect was walking free.
“It’s a good sentence,” Wilma Zerna said yesterday after Linda Madlala, 23, was given two life sentences and 15 years by Durban High Court Judge Jerome Mnguni for the murder of her husband, Dieter Zerna, in Pine Street, Ashley, in October 2009, a few days before his 57th birthday.
“But I believe that, from some point, no one really bothered to look for the third man. There is an address of a man in the docket; and I know the police went there, but I think they stopped.
“I know what one bullet did to me and my daughter. I go to bed alone. I eat alone. My daughter went to boarding school because of this. One day she will walk down the aisle alone. The ripple effect does not stop … and his (Madlala’s) sentence will not stop it.
“They must pursue the third suspect and put a stop to his callous life before he steals someone else’s loved one. I do not wish that on any other family,” she said.
According to evidence before the court, Zerna, who owned Simba Carpet Cleaning, was putting up posters advertising his business when a car pulled up next to him and three men emerged, one with a gun.
After he was robbed of his cellphone, Zerna pulled out his own firearm and a shoot-out ensued during which he was shot in the groin, Madlala was shot in the head and one of his accomplices was shot dead.
The third man fled and was never arrested.
Madlala was charged with robbery, the murder of Zerna and the murder of his accomplice in terms of law which states that criminals who arm themselves can be held responsible for any deaths relating to the crime.
He pleaded not guilty.
Madlala said he was studying to be a draughtsman and was just getting a lift to one of his clients. They got lost and had stopped to ask Zerna for directions when one of those he was with suddenly pulled out a firearm.
The State led the evidence of witnesses who said one suspect’s gun was already out when he got out of the vehicle.
There was also evidence that Madlala had Zerna’s cellphone on him when he was arrested at the scene.
Testifying in aggravation of sentence, Mrs Zerna said both she and her daughter Nataschia, who was 12 at the time of the murder, were battling psychologically with their loss.
On top of this, she had had to shut down her bed ’n’ breakfast business to concentrate on the carpet cleaning business, which she had also had to downsize.
This had resulted in 12 permanent staff and 10 part-time staff losing their jobs.
Passing sentence, Judge Mnguni said he did not consider Madlala’s age – 21 at the time of the offences – to be an exceptional circumstance warranting a deviation from the legislated minimum sentence.
“In fact the court takes judicial notice of the number of such crimes committed in our country and that they are being committed by people in their late teens,” he said.