File picture: Timothy A. Clary

Pretoria - Not even claims by two murderers that they were part of the Springbok and Blue Bulls rugby teams years ago could persuade a judge that they deserved anything less than two life imprisonment sentences each.

It was not clear why Jon “Boyboy” Letswalo, 38, and Themba Motshweni, 37, in their pleas for mercy to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, claimed they were veteran rugby players at “around the time of the World Cup”. It could perhaps be that they assumed Judge Eben Jordaan would take more kindly to them if they were rugby legends.

Their co-accused Justice Ndlovu, however, accepted his fate without making any claims to fame. He too received two life sentences.

The three were earlier convicted of shooting dead 76-year-old Charlie Groenewald at his Boschkop smallholding, east of Pretoria. The trio severely assaulted his wife Ralie, 72.

The three were part of a gang which robbed the couple in May 2014. The elderly man was shot dead in his bed when he and his wife were overpowered by the gang, but he managed to get hold of his own firearm before the shooting.

The court heard how Groenewald fired at another robber Amon Mnisi as the intruder was firing at him. The bullets from the two firearms hit their targets at the same time.

Mnisi’s friends fled with his bleeding body but dumped it along a foot path close to the Groenewald’s home. He was dead. His ID was found next to him. It was established that he was a police reservist. He still had his SAPS holster around his waste, but his firearm was never found.

The three have also been convicted of his murder as the court found that by going to the Groenewalds smallholding armed, they knew someone could be killed, whether it were their victims or one of their own.

Groenewald and his wife were married for 53 years at the time and ran a tuck shop from their home.

The widow suffered severe injuries when one of the robbers sat on top of her and tried to strangle her.

The three maintained to the end that they were innocent, but some of the witnesses saw them fleeing.

Letswalo said he was also a rugby coach in Mamelodi, a ZCC priest and deacon at the NG Church. He conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims and said he felt for them, but had nothing to do with their deaths. He also quoted from the Bible. His message to the victims' relatives was, “as spoken by the Lord, be strong and pray”.

Motshweni, who claimed to have played rugby for several clubs, including the Blue Bulls, appeared in court in his Springbok jersey.

Judge Jordaan simply ignored their rugby claims.

Pretoria News