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Two different verdicts – a conviction and an acquittal.
That is how a murder that brought the town of Ventersdorp to a standstill and stirred racial tensions across the country ended on Tuesday, two years after the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader was found bludgeoned to death at his farm.
One of the controversies that raised eyebrows and had tongues wagging was a claim which farmworker Chris Mahlangu made that Eugene Terre’Blanche had sodomised him.
In a lengthy judgment in the Ventersdorp Regional Court on Tuesday, Judge John Horn convicted Mahlangu for the April 2010 murder while ruling out any possibility that Patrick Ndlovu, who was a minor at the time, had participated in the murder.
“I’m not convinced that accused two (Ndlovu) took any real or active part in the killing of the deceased. No evidence, physical or forensic, links accused two to the murder of the deceased,” said Judge Horn.
He said blood-spatter expert Lieutenant-Colonel Ian van der Nest had exonerated the youth when he testified that the amount of blood found in Terre’Blanche’s bedroom made it impossible for anyone to leave unstained by blood.
“Indeed the evidence as to the amount of blood spatter that was found around the deceased’s body and all over the room, the walls and even the roof serves to nullify any suggestion that accused two was in that room when the deceased was battered to death.
“It is highly unlikely that blood from the deceased would not have got onto the clothes or the person of accused two had he been party to the assault on the deceased,” said the judge.
He said the teenager’s only involvement in the matter was to break into Terre’Blanche’s house with the intention to steal something. For this, he found the 18-year-old guilty.
“It is inconceivable that one would enter one’s house through a window in order to have a conversation with him. Accused two (Ndlovu) can only have wanted to enter the house with the intention to steal something,” Judge Horn said of a young man who till on Tuesday couldn’t be identified.
Mahlangu, the first accused, appeared confused as he munched on a chocolate bar following the conviction.
The judge dismissed claims that he had attacked the AWB leader in self-defence, agreeing with Van der Nest’s evidence that Terre’Blanche was hit so hard on his head that the first blow incapacitated him, making it impossible to fight back.
“Evidence shows, including admissions made by accused one (Mahlangu), that… he armed himself with an iron rod. He broke into the deceased’s house and there attacked and killed him,” the judge said.
Conceding that Mahlangu had a constitutional right to remain silent, Judge Horn criticised his decision not to give evidence, saying he should have used the opportunity to answer to overwhelming evidence against him.
He also found Mahlangu guilty on charges of housebreaking with intent to rob and robbery, as well as attempted robbery.
He criticised the police for their shoddy work, and berated them for their failure to keep proper records at the time the murder was reported and for violating Ndlovu’s rights by subjecting him to an overnight interrogation that saw him giving statements to police without being given time to rest or eat.
“One thing the police should have learnt from this case is that there’s no such thing as an open-and-shut case. But even worse, the interview with the minor was conducted in the early hours of April 4, 2010.
“The boy hadn’t slept and we had no idea if he had been fed. At some point he was in his underpants with only a blanket wrapped around him.
“He must have been scared and hungry. He was given no opportunity to rest, and by 8am that morning he was taken to a pointing-out,” he said.
Judge Horn’s ruling did not sit well with Terre’Blanche’s family, with his brother’s son-in-law Andre Nienaber saying Ndlovu, who was convicted of a housebreaking and theft incident just a few weeks before Terre’Blanche’s murder – should have also been convicted for the murder.
Judge Horn is expected to sentence the two on June 18.