Virginia, Free State - Welkom graveyard killer Maartens van der Merwe was assaulted by his victim's mother on Friday shortly after being sentenced by the Virginia Circuit Court.

Michael van Eck's mother Henriette hit Van der Merwe while he was going down the court steps to the holding cells.

“Mag jy vrek, f****n hond (May you die, f***ing dog),” she told Van der Merwe, landing a fist on his back and a slap on his head.

Her husband tried to constrain her, but also got a slap against the chest.

Judge Ian van der Merwe sentenced Van der Merwe to life imprisonment for killing Van Eck in April 2011.

He also imposed 10 years for robbery with aggravated circumstances and five years for his mutilation of Van Eck's body.

The judge said the murder was one of the most unsettling and gruesome cases he had ever handled.

He said Van der Merwe and his fiancée and co-accused, Charne van Heerden, dismembered the bodies of cats before they started looking for a human victim.

The judge accepted that Van der Merwe was in love with Van Heerden.

He said Van der Merwe might not have played the dominant role in the murder, but he acknowledged that he had his own motives in relation to the murder.

The judge said the murder had been precisely planned, violent and executed with chilling calculation.

Van Eck was lured and murdered to satisfy the murderers' individual macabre purposes.

Judge van der Merwe said in a case such as this, there was a strong public interest.

It was obvious from evidence by Van Eck’s mother that Michael was a popular member of the family and community.

His murder affected the family deeply and continued to do so.

The judge said there were signs of genuine remorse from Van der Merwe, but evidence indicated that, without proper help, he was a danger to society.

“I cannot close my eyes to this evidence. He could not explain why he was unable not stop himself from committing the crimes.”

There were no compelling reasons to give a lesser sentence.

“I have no choice but to give a life imprisonment sentence on count one.”

Van der Merwe’s counsel Pieter Nel asked the court to consider an application for leave to appeal against the sentence for murder, but this was denied. - Sapa