Scientist’s killer convicted

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IOL pic may16 justice scales gavel Independent Newspapers .

A Dennilton man who was part of the gang that murdered a retired scientist in his Garsfontein home five years ago was convicted on Thursday.

The High Court in Pretoria found that Abel Magopa, 38, killed 61-year-old Professor Bill van der Riet and stole a suitcase with clothes, coins and a DVD player.

A member of the Community Policing Forum found Van der Riet's body after his gardener raised the alarm when he could not gain access to the property.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius described the manner in which the retired CSIR microbiologist was found as “rather sad”.

“I don't think any of us would want to be found in that position,” she said.

Van der Riet was found tied up and half naked with a dishcloth wrapped around his neck.

Magopa's index fingerprint was found on a newspaper advertisement and his palm print on a pamphlet next to the body in the locked house.

The suitcase was found outside in a flower bed near the entrance gate.

Magopa admitted that his fingerprints were found at the scene, but denied any involvement in the murder.

He explained that he was a car guard at the Willows Centre and that some of the regular clients had trusted him enough to let him read their newspapers while they were shopping inside.

Pretorius said Magopa's evidence was improbable and she did not believe his elaborate story of how his fingerprints ended up at the scene.

He told a policeman he worked at a pub, yet told the court he had worked as a car guard.

She said Van der Riet had been humiliated and murdered in a horrendous way.

There was a possibility that others might also have been involved.

Prosecutor Salome Scheepers asked for a life sentence.

She said it was severely aggravating that Van der Riet had been an elderly person who was attacked in his own home.

“We live in jails just to protect ourselves. It should not be like that,” she said.

The defence contended that the murder was not premeditated, as the robbers could have taken along a firearm if they intended killing their victim.

Pretorius will sentence Magopa on May 22. - Sapa

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