Cape Town - Two rape and murder convicts, who perpetrated heinous crimes against their minor cousin during a weekend sleepover and buried her in a shallow grave, will serve more time behind bars after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) set aside their “lenient” sentences.
This after the director of public prosecutions appealed against the sentences handed down by the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, saying they were “too lenient and induced a sense of shock”.
The two convicts, both cousins of the deceased minor, were arraigned on charges of murder, defeating the ends of justice and rape.
Both pleaded not guilty during the trial.
The female cousin, aged 21 at the time of committing the crimes, denied all of the charges against her while the second accused, aged 17 at the time, said he was coerced by his older cousin to commit the crimes.
In the lower court, the first accused was sentenced to an effective 15 years imprisonment while the second accused was sentenced to an effective 12 years imprisonment.
Acting Judge of the SCA Mahube Molemela noted in her judgment that “it is often said that sentencing is the most difficult phase of a criminal trial, and rightly so”.
“This case brings into sharp focus the dilemma that is often faced by the trial court when sentencing a minor for violent crimes. In this instance, a psychologist’s report described the minor in question as displaying traits of a serial killer, which evidence was not contested.”
DNA evidence submitted to the court during the trial showed that the 17-year-old’s DNA was found in the vestibule swab sample collected from the deceased’s genitals but according to his confessions made in his plea explanation, his older cousin “had threatened to kill him if he did not rape and kill the deceased.
He also explained that the first respondent was present during the rape and murder of the deceased.”
During the trial, the court heard evidence by police that after being alerted about the disappearance of the minor, a witness detailed how they had seen the male cousin shovelling in a neighbour's yard.
“The police observed loose soil in the yard, became suspicious and inspected the area. This led to the grisly discovery of the deceased’s naked body in a shallow grave in the backyard.
“The body bore several deep gashes in the head and neck area,” the judgment read.
The DPP submitted that “the sentencing discretion of the trial court was not properly exercised” and that it had over-emphasised the personal circumstances advanced on behalf of both respondents and “failed to take proper account of the seriousness of the offences they had committed and the interests of the community”.
“That both respondents deemed it appropriate to perpetrate such dastardly deeds on their own cousin is beyond shocking.
“The first respondent, being a woman who was once a victim of rape, is someone who would ordinarily have been expected to be protective of the deceased.
“Instead, she fetched a child from the bedroom in which she was sleeping, took her outside and orchestrated a vicious attack against her,” said Judge Molemela.
After setting aside the sentences of the lower court, Judge Molemela handed two life sentences to the first respondent for the rape and murder of her cousin and five years for defeating the ends of justice. The sentences will run concurrently.
The second respondent was sentenced to two 23-year sentences for the rape and murder charges, and five years for defeating the ends of justice. The sentences will also run concurrently.