The affordable education loan option
Pretoria - Following the conviction of two men who murdered Meyerspark businessman Dawie Maree, the pair’s counsel told the Pretoria High Court the killing was not the worst ever seen.
“I am not minimising the seriousness of the offences, but on the spectrum of offences, there are much worse ones,” lawyer Paul Shapiro told Judge Tshifiwa Maumela on Thursday.
The judge not only convicted Marabe Talane and Rodney Masemola of Maree’s murder, but also held them accountable for the killing of their fellow robber, Martin Tshebesebe. He was shot dead during a scuffle with Maree after the armed men entered the couple’s bedroom on the night of May 23, 2008.
Maree and one of the robbers were fighting for possession of the firearm. Shots were also fired from the door in the direction of the bed.
The judge said it was not known who shot and killed Tshebesebe, but all the accused knew there were guns involved when they broke into the house and that someone could be shot. “We don’t know if Maree shot him or the person at the door. But they knew death could occur, even to one of their own.”
Maree was killed in front of his wife Elana and two small children who were sleeping with the couple in their bedroom. Elana testified that she heard shots from the door and lay across her children on the floor to try to protect them.
Her husband managed to pin one of the robbers down, although he was heavily wounded and blood was running from his mouth. He told his wife to phone for help and she heard Tshebesebe making a death rattle.
A friend took her husband to hospital, but it was too late. The rest of the robbers ran away with a few goods belonging to the couple.
They maintained their innocence throughout the trial, although the fingerprint of Talane was found on a windowsill where the burglar bars had been cut open to gain entry to the house. He claimed the “white police” had framed him because he was black and they had planted his print on the scene.
Masemola claimed he was a family member of the couple’s domestic worker Liesbet Masemola and that they had gone to her room that night to borrow money.
They said Maree had caught them outside as the dog barked, and Maree had shot at them. His wife then came out and shot at her husband. Their version was that she afterwards carried both dead men to the bedroom to make it look as if there had been intruders in the house.
Their versions were rejected by the judge, who noted that Elana would not have been able to do that.
If the facts were as they said, why had the accused not gone to the police? the judge wanted to know. “There were two corpses in the morgue, yet (the accused had) said nothing.”
It seemed as if the defence pursued its claims halfheartedly when it claimed the matter was racially inspired as the accused were black, he added.
This caused Shapiro to jump up, even before the judge had delivered his final guilty verdict on two charges of murder, housebreaking and the illegal possession of arms and ammunition. The lawyer told the judge “no one has ever said I did anything halfheartedly.”
He also said he had instructions to appeal against the judgment.
Once the judge had managed to deliver his final judgment, he asked whether Shapiro wanted to obtain presentencing reports. The lawyer responded: “I don’t think presentencing reports will assist either accused on the findings you made.”
In delivering his argument regarding mitigation of sentence, Shapiro said by the State’s version of events - accepted by the court - his clients “must be the stupidest housebreakers in the history of South Africa. They kill a man, open the safe and all they walk out with is a watch and a cellphone… They are totally incompetent and stupid… The dumbest housebreakers in the world… Two losers.”
There could be little doubt his clients qualified as “the worst social outcasts and marginalised people in South Africa”.
Shapiro, however, decided not to proceed with this line of argument after the tea break and called for presentencing reports instead. “I may have been a bit too hasty in declining to call for these reports,” he said. The matter was postponed to March.
Elana van Breda, widow of Maree who has married again, cried in court while the judge delivered his verdict. She said she was relieved her husband’s killers had at last been convicted, as this would help her to find some closure.