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Johannesburg - For more than five years, the serial killer terrorised residents at an Eastern Cape village, breaking into their homes at night and raping and killing women and children.
Bulelani Mabhayi, 38, used a bush knife and an axe to kill.
His murder spree ended in August last year when police pounced on him while he “took a nap” at a house in Tholeni, near Butterworth, Eastern Cape.
By then, his victim tally had reached 36 - 20 murders, six rapes and 10 housebreakings.
On Wednesday, Mabhayi’s lawyer pleaded for mercy from the Mthatha High Court sitting in Butterworth.
This was after Mabhayi had pleaded guilty on all charges on Tuesday.
“He has pleaded guilty, and this shows remorse,” said Mabhayi’s legal counsel, advocate Simphiwe Soga, sparking murmurs from the public gallery packed with relatives of Mabhayi’s victims.
Soga, arguing in mitigation of sentence, said Mabhayi’s father had died when he was 12 and his mother a year later.
“He had no parents and no place to call home.
“The public interest is not always served by a severe sentence. The court should show a degree of mercy.”
State prosecutor advocate Ndoyisile Lamla, arguing in aggravation of sentence, said there were substantial and compelling circumstances for a heavy sentence.
“All the deceased were attacked at their homes at night and were defenceless persons. The offences were premeditated and executed with precision,” he said.
Referring to the callousness of Mabhayi’s crimes, Lamla said some of Mabhayi’s victims were people for whom he used to do odd jobs as a builder; he targeted homes where there were no men; his youngest victim was six years old and the oldest 79.
After raping them, he would hit them on the head with an axe.
The court should send out a clear message to deter would-be-rapists and murderers, Lamla said.
“He (Mabhayi) has no respect for human life… He is a person who doesn’t deserve to be living in that community.
“There is a public outcry about crimes of rape and murder, and the only deterrent is to impose a severe and heavy sentence.”
Lamla called for a fixed, “non-parolable” jail term of at least 45 years.
Testifying in aggravation of sentencing earlier, Nomfundiso Mpontshane told the court how terrified residents, especially women and children, were forced to take refuge at the local victim support centre as Mabhayi’s reign of terror continued.
“They couldn’t sleep out of terror,” Mpontshane said.
She testified how the women would go back home with their children in the morning to bathe them before they went to school.
Asked if she would forgive Mabhayi, Mpontshane said: “We will never forgive him. What he did was very terrible. We won’t accept his apology.”
Mpontshane said: “I speak for all residents, and if anyone is called (to testify), he or she will confirm that. We are still angry with him.”
Throughout the proceedings, Mabhayi showed no emotion.
Sentencing was reserved.