Magdeline (left) and Buyiswa Mjoli, family members of Nombeko Modiyapola, who was stabbed to death, are seen here reacting in court as her killer, Dirk van Staden was sentenced. Photo: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - A 46-year-old Douglas man was on Tuesday sentenced to 18 years in jail after stabbing his girlfriend to death following an argument over her R300 disability grant.

Dirk van Staden appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon. He was found guilty of murder on August 12, after he killed his girlfriend, Virginia Nombeko Modiyapola, 38, on January 4 2014.

Modiyapola was stabbed to death in front of her sister and niece at a house in Mittah Kolberg Street, Kutlwanong, Galeshewe. She and Van Staden had been visiting her family.

Shortly after the incident, the family members told the DFA that the couple and two other women had been “relaxing” on a blanket outside the house on a hot summer’s evening when the incident occurred.

They said the couple had been under the influence of alcohol when they got involved in an argument over Modiyapola’s R300 disability grant, which she wanted to send to her two children in Douglas.

Van Staden apparently wanted the money for himself and got upset. He got up and went to the outhouse to fetch a knife.

He approached Modiyapola where she was lying on her stomach on the blanket and he stabbed her in the back. When she turned around, he stabbed her in the chest and in her arm.

She died on the scene.

During Tuesday’s sentencing procedures, Van Staden’s legal representative, Barend Titus, from Legal Aid, requested that Magistrate Danie Schneider hand down the prescribed minimum 15-year sentence, taking into consideration that his client only inflicted three stab wounds and that it “could have been much worse”.

The State prosecutor, Elmar Steyn, during his final submissions, called for the maximum sentence of 20 years.

“If his own girlfriend was not safe, how will we protect other woman in society from him,” Steyn asked.

“He literally stabbed someone he was supposed to love and protect in the back and killed her - like a true coward. The family will never again have the chance to sit peacefully outside on a blanket with the victim in a place that is now filled with sad memories. In this case only the maximum sentence would be suitable,” Steyn added.

Schneider, while handing down the sentence, said Van Staden’s record showed an extremely worrying pattern of violent behaviour, with 19 previous convictions. At least three of these convictions related to family violence, while others related to assault and assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

He added that no evidence presented in court indicated that the victim provoked Van Staden to violence.

Schneider said the court rejected Van Staden’s version of events and only moved away from the prescribed maximum sentence of 20 years as he took into account the fact that Van Staden suffered from an incurable disease and that he had been in custody for nine months since his arrest.

While handing down the sentence of 18 years imprisonment, Schneider requested that Van Staden undergo possible psychiatric treatment in order to assist in his rehabilitation.

He was also deemed unfit to own a firearm.

Modiyapola’s family members, who sat sobbing in court while hearing details of the murder, said that while no sentence would ever bring her back, they were satisfied with the outcome of the trial.

They further commended the investigating officer, Detective Constable Paballo Motshep, for bringing Van Staden to justice.

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