Cape Town 141204 The Gumtree murderes were sentanced in The Western Cape High cout. Photo by Michael Walker

Leila Samodien

Justice Writer

ONE man has been sentenced to life behind bars and another for an effective 25 years for the murder of Olwyn Cowley in the so-called Gumtree case.

Cowley, 21, was shot dead during a test drive of his silver BMW on August 30, 2012 after meeting with a potential buyer. He had advertised the car on classifieds website Gumtree.

His body was then dumped in bushes at Monwabisi Beach, near Baden Powell Drive.

Judge Anton Veldhuizen convicted three men last month in connection with the incident. Jason Elias and Soegbudien Abvajee were found guilty of murder, robbery, and possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition.

Rameez Felix was found guilty of lesser charges: theft of Cowley’s belongings, which included a cellphone and a suitcase, as well as of possession of an illegal firearm. A fourth man, Shawaal Staggie, was acquitted of all charges.

In handing down sentences to Elias, Abvajee and Felix yesterday, Judge Veldhuizen described the crime as a “senseless” act.

He sentenced Abvajee to 15 years for robbery, three years for the illegal possession of a firearm, and one year for the illegal possession of ammunition, which would all run concurrently with his sentence of life imprisonment for Cowley’s murder.

Elias was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment for the murder. His sentences of 12 years for robbery, three years for the illegal possession of a firearm and six months for the illegal possession of ammunition would also run concurrently with the 25 years.

Felix was sentenced to three years in jail – one year for theft, which would run concurrently with his three-year sentence for the illegal possession of a firearm.

Judge Veldhuizen said one could not but feel the deepest sympathy for Cowley’s mother, who had lost her only child. Speaking after proceedings, Cowley’s mother Surita said she was “very happy” with the sentences.

“I am very relieved it’s all over. I felt like this case took an eternity, but now it’s done.”

Judge Veldhuizen found that when it came to Elias, there were just enough substantial and compelling circumstances, when viewed cumulatively, to warrant a deviation from the prescribed minimum sentence of life for the murder.

Among them was that he is 32 years old, had no previous convictions and had a steady job working for his father.

Elias’s lawyer, William Booth, had also argued that his client hadn’t himself handled the firearm and that he hadn’t been the one to shoot Cowley.

Regarding Abvajee, the judge said he was on his own version a robber.

He described Abvajee as someone who made a living as a criminal. In his case, the personal circumstances of the offender had to take a back seat when weighed against the nature of the crime and the interests of society.