Cape Town - Convicted killer Johannes Christiaan de Jager maintained his innocence on Thursday when called to convince the Western Cape High Court to give him a lesser sentence.
Prosecutor Romay van Rooyen wanted him to admit to raping and killing prostitute Hiltina Alexander, 18, in 2008 and killing 16-year-old Charmaine Mare last year.
Despite maintaining a frown, De Jager seemed calm in the dock and stuck to his version that he did not commit the crimes.
“So you can't tell the court you are sorry (about Alexander) because you are saying you did not do it?” Van Rooyen asked.
De Jager replied: “I am sorry she is dead but I did not do it.”
Van Rooyen asked the same about Mare.
De Jager replied: “As I said, she is dead as a result of me but it was an accident in the house.”
He added that he was not a danger to women because he had never raped anyone.
When the State concluded questioning, he stumbled out of the dock because of an injury to his leg.
In closing argument, his lawyer Sakkie Maartens said it would have been in his client's favour to admit to the crimes.
“It would have been first prize if Mr De Jager today took the stand and made a U-turn and confessed his sins and asked for mercy,” he said.
“He stands by his version. In this regard, I want to submit that the court will be careful not to use the absence of remorse as an aggravating factor.”
He said that the crimes against Alexander attracted a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. However, since his client was found guilty of the 2008 crimes at the same time as Mare's crimes, it could not count as a previous conviction. Thus, Mare's murder could not also attract a life sentence.
He then seemed to assist the State's argument in admitting that murder and rape were the most serious offences.
“Life is sacrosanct and no ways is Hiltina's life cheaper than the interpreter's,” he said.
“Society needs to get the message that prostitutes or no prostitutes, 1/8women 3/8 must feel free to walk the streets without forever being in fear that some evil-doer might pounce on them.”
He asked the court to keep in mind that De Jager was not “all evil” and had stayed out of trouble for a lengthy period of his life.
The defence lawyer also ventured a guess that the crimes were not premeditated but committed “in the heat of the moment”.
“I implore the court to consider that despite his callous conduct pertaining to Charmaine's body, that there is something to save, salvage, and rehabilitate.”
De Jager admitted that he cut off Mare's arms and legs and burned her torso.
Maartens reminded acting Judge Chuma Cossie that courts should never punish in anger.
The lawyer said his client had asked him to apply for observation at a psychiatric hospital despite not being aware of any mental illness.
He had decided not to argue this point as he could see no evidence that would assist him in this regard.