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Pretoria - “You are a greedy, heartless and cruel woman.” These were the words of a Pretoria High Court judge as she gave the domestic worker who was involved in the brutal killing of Brooklyn resident Susan Vermaak in her Clark Street home a severe tongue lashing, which lasted nearly an hour, before she sentenced her to life imprisonment.
Don Mashadi Maloka, who worked for the Vermaaks for about a month before she and a group of her son's friends stabbed and suffocated Vermaak to death, loudly shouted out in shock as Judge Lettie Malopa told her she was being jailed for life.
Maloka covered her face with her hands as she was told she would have to serve a further 15 years for robbery, of which the judge ordered eight should run concurrently with her life sentence.
Her son Samuel Maloka, who was convicted earlier of conspiracy to rob the Vermaaks, was sentenced to an effective five years' imprisonment. Family members of the Malokas cried bitterly as mother and son were led down to the holding cells to start serving their sentences.
Henry Vermaak, widower of Susan, said he was satisfied with the sentence, but according to him this was only round one. He said he would now try to ensure that the police also arrested (at least) two other youths who were involved in the murder, but who weren't caught.
Asked whether this chapter would at least bring him some closure, Vermaak said he doubted that anyone could get closure after something like this. He and his wife were due to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary at the time of her murder.
The 64-year-old former ballet teacher and estate agent was overpowered in her home on December 18, 2006, as she returned from the gym. Her attackers pulled a plastic bag over her head after stabbing her in the heart. She was tied up and left in a room in the house.
Vermaak's body was later discovered by her husband when he returned from work that afternoon.
He also discovered Maloka in the study. She was “loosely” tied up. She claimed both she and Vermaak had fallen prey to house robbers.
Vermaak's husband testified earlier that she was a stylish woman who had jewellery custom-made for her. Some of this jewellery, taken from the house, was later discovered by the police in the possession of a family member of Maloka's boyfriend. She said Maloka gave it to her as a Christmas gift.
It was also discovered that a large amount of money, as well as other items, were taken from the house.
Maloka was the girlfriend of the Vermaaks' handyman, Abraham Mphela, who had worked for them for 13 years. He got her the job as a domestic worker for the Vermaaks.
Mphela testified earlier that Maloka's son told him his mother asked him to recruit two of her friends to rob the Vermaaks - which he did. Things, however, went wrong and she was killed during the robbery.
It also emerged after her conviction that Maloka was no stranger to murder or clashing with the law. When she started to work for the Vermaaks, and unbeknown to them, she had served a stint in jail for a previous murder. She also had four other convictions, including assault and housebreaking, to her name.
In testifying in mitigation of sentence, Maloka begged for mercy and said she wanted to apologise to the court and the Vermaaks for what she had done. As she denied killing Vermaak, the State asked her what she had to apologise for. Maloka said it was because “she was present” when Vermaak was killed.
The judge said Maloka plotted with the accomplices to rob her employer.
“You were in a position of trust. She gave you the freedom of her house and what did you do? You went there with co-perpetrators to rob and kill her - a woman who was a mother and a wife.
“You left the family distressed… her husband and son could not cope for two years after that.
“They suffered because of your deeds.”
The judge also scolded her for being a bad mother to her son, by involving him. She, however, told Samuel Maloka that he could have said no to his mother.