Cape Town - Tears flowed on Tuesday when Lance Hess, the father of Jesse Hess, shared how the immense loss of his daughter has impacted his family.
The 18-year-old theology student and her grandfather Chris Lategan were violently strangled to death in their Parow flat on August 30, 2019. Hess was doing her first year at the University of the Western Cape, while Lategan was an 85-year-old pensioner.
As the voices of UWC students protesting outside penetrated the walls of the courtroom, David van Boven and Tasliem Ambrose appeared for arguments to be heard to determine what sentence might be fitting for their crimes.
Van Boven was last month convicted for the murders of Both Jesse and Lategan. In addition he was found guilty on two counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances sexual assault and fraud. Ambrose was convicted of robbery as an accessory after the fact.
Hess said about the impact Jesse’s death had on him: “It took a lot away from me as a father. There’s a lot of times when I feel like I should’ve gone in her place because she had her whole life ahead of her... She is missed every day.”
He broke down in tears when he said he still kept a box containing all the cards she gave him since she started school and treasured the cup she bought him as a gift.
He also explained that Jesse’s younger sister is still devastated by her loss and walks out of the room when they talk about her big sister.
Lategan’s son, Marvin Lategan said: “My first question is why?” when asked about the loss of his father. He said his father was well liked, very quiet and a good Christian who was always willing to help the community.
He added that, “Justice must take its course”, when asked about the accused.
Van Boven’s lawyer, advocate Brendale Abrahams requested that the court show his client mercy.
He said because Van Boven has a 2-year-old daughter and was brought up in an abusive household that substantial and compelling circumstances exist for deviation from the prescribed minimum sentences, albeit direct imprisonment.
When Ambrose took the stand to testify for mitigation of sentence, he said that he has three children and left school when he was in Grade 9 to support his family, “There was no bread in the house,” said Ambrose.
Ambrose has eight previous convictions for possession of drugs and told the court that he had a problem with drugs but since being in custody for this trial, has abandoned his addiction.
He also took the opportunity to apologise to the family.
“The (family of the) two people who have died in this matter, I want to say sorry for what happened. It wasn’t my plan or my idea to do any harm. I want to ask them to forgive me for what happened,” Ambrose said.
Advocate Christiaan Burger Brand put forward that his client is remorseful and that he is capable of rehabilitation. He said that a sentence of four to five years direct imprisonment would be applicable considering that Ambrose has been awaiting trial since 2019.
State advocate Emily van Wyk did not mince her words when she addressed the court. She requested that the sentence of life imprisonment for both murders respectively be imposed and that the court use its own discretion in deliberate how long the accused will serve inside prison for the rest of the charges.
Advocate Van Wyk said reasons for aggravation of sentence was the manner in which Jesse and Lategan were murdered; the fact that Van Boven knew them; that the offence was premeditated; that the family had to leave their home after the incident and that both accused had previous convictions.
Outside court UWC students gathered in their numbers calling for an end to gender-based violence (GBV) and to show support to the family.
Student leader, Mandla-Onke Notyawa said: “It is a shame in this country that we continuously speak about GBV and that it must come to an end but no measures are put in place to ensure that, so we are here to register dissent of the system.”