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Pretoria - A member of an AK47-wielding gang who blew up two ATM machines and murdered a policemen who came to investigate was on Friday sentenced in the High Court in Pretoria to life imprisonment.
Acting Judge Bert Bam sentenced Sibusiso Given Moloi, 34, of Soweto to life imprisonment for murdering Villieria police inspector Jaco Botha during a robbery at an Engen garage in Kilnerpark, Pretoria in June 2008.
Botha died when robbers armed with AK47s opened fire on his police car when he and his colleague Pieter Otto went to investigate a complaint that someone was tampering with an ATM.
He was killed when a bullet ricocheted off the bonnet of the police car and hit him in the throat and head.
Otto miraculously survived, but was so traumatised by his near-death experience and the death of his friend and colleague of 10 years that he had to be hospitalised.
He left the police and is still receiving counselling.
Moloi was in addition sentenced to a total of 70 years imprisonment for the illegal possession of explosives, two charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, malicious damage to property, attempted murder, theft, and conspiring with others to commit crimes.
The gang of robbers managed to get away with over R13,000 from the two bombed ATM machines, and R1500, cigarettes, and other goods stolen at the quick store. They also stole a car from a motorist at the scene.
Moloi was linked to the scene through a single thumb print found on a wrapped packet of cigarettes found on the floor of the quick shop after the robbery.
His advocate told the court he “felt sorry” for the victim and his next of kin, but maintained his innocence on all of the charges.
Bam said Moloi had been part of an organised gang of dangerous criminals who carefully planned and blew up the ATMs in an operation carried out with military precision.
They were armed with AK47s, posted look-outs at strategic points, and did not hesitate to open fire on police when they arrived at the scene.
They clearly shot at police with the intent to kill.
Their getaway vehicles were in place and they escaped unscathed after robbing another vehicle at the scene.
Bam said crimes committed by gangs in the country were rife and no individual or enterprise was safe anymore.
The fact that the crimes were premeditated, carried out with total disregard for the lives of others, and the death of a policeman on duty were serious aggravating factors, he added.
Botha's best friend Karin Labuschagne was in tears while she tried to console Botha's weeping mother.
She said they were “sad but happy” about the sentence and hoped it would help them get closure about Botha's murder.
Otto said Botha had not only been his colleague, but his best friend.
“He was a very gentle person and a terribly good friend. We did everything together for 10 years.
“He was very thorough in his work.
“I think the sentence is fantastic. Maybe it will give Jaco's mother a little bit of comfort.
“Not a day goes by that I don't think about Jaco. You battle to sleep at night and often you just can't stop the tears.
“I left the police that December. I relive it over and over that I just could not pull him out of the car because I was trapped.
“It ruined my whole life. I lost my marriage, my car, my house.
“I am only now starting to slowly rebuild my life,” Otto said. - Sapa