Durban - A young car hijacker was on Thursday sen-tenced to an effective 18 years in jail after being found guilty of five counts of robbery with aggravating circumstances and one of house breaking with intent to rob with aggravating circumstances.

Siphamandla Mthalane, 23, of Cato Manor appeared shocked at the sentence as he was taken down to the holding cells at the Durban Regional Court.

Magistrate Gert Botha said the offences were committed over two years, 2008 and 2009, and Mthalane had been 18 or 19 at the time, “still a young man”.

The prescribed sentence for each of the counts was 15 years, but he felt there were substantial and compelling circumstances to deviate from this sentence, the magistrate said.

He took into account that Mthalane was a first offender, had already spent five years in custody and was young at the time of committing the offences. Botha therefore sentenced him to three years imprisonment for each of the six counts resulting in a total 18 years’ imprisonment.

The magistrate said this had been a lengthy trial, which Mthalane had also dragged out by hiring and firing attorneys.

Mthalane had pleaded not guilty to all the charges at the start of the trial in April 2012.

Botha said these crimes were well planned and during two of the incidents, getaway cars were at the scene. The stolen vehicles were taken to neighbouring states never to be seen again.

Police, including investigating officers from Mayville, Westville, Pinetown, Cato Manor, Crime Intelligence and Warrant Officer Rajen Nagesar from the KZN Provincial Task Team, recovered four vehicles.

State prosecutor Krishen Shah had called all the complainants as trial witnesses.

One of the complainants was retired Judge Chris Nicholson’s daughter Juliette, a Durban advocate. She had testified that on March 14, 2009, at about 11pm, she was robbed at gunpoint of her car, a Peugeot, and all her personal items. A young male had been transported to where she was by a white car with more than one occupant inside, she said.

Her car was recovered soon after at the Pavilion shopping centre. Captain Kasiram Harrilal had received information of a car parked at the mall and when he checked the registration number it came up positive as a Mayville police case.

He found the car locked and decided to observe from his unmarked police car. He testified to noticing Mthalane and another exit the underground parking area and go to the Peugeot. Mthalane had then made a telephone call saying“… found the silver Peugeot”.

The two men fled when Harrilal and his crew got out their vehicle to arrest them.

When the men’s car, parked on the roof parking of the mall, was searched they found a Peugeot key in a bag, hidden in a spare wheel in the car boot.

Both men had elected to remain silent. Charges were later withdrawn against both men.

A fingerprint found on the car was kept as evidence and an expert testified it matched prints taken from Mthalane in May 2010 by Nagesar.

Complainant Kwezi Mbambo had testified that he was robbed at gunpoint of his black Peugeot in Glenwood in May 2009 by four men in a white Nissan Sentra. His car was also later recovered.

Warrant officer Joel Israel of Cato Manor SAPS came across a white Nissan Sentra broken down at the Chesterville Cemetery.

Two men, including Mthalane, were inside and after searching Mthalane a Peugeot key was found.

Zane Bassa had testified he and his family were watching television at their Westville home when four armed men forced their way into the house. Among the items stolen was a rented silver Honda Accord, which was also later recovered.

Mthalane denied stealing cars. He said he had no knowledge of how his fingerprints were found on the stolen cars.

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