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Pretoria - Two men who robbed and killed an elderly Greek immigrant and almost killed another man were sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court in Pretoria on Friday.

Judge Ferdi Preller sentenced Moetla Richard Donald Mokalapa, 23, of Mamelodi to two terms of life imprisonment on charges of murder and rape.

Mokalapa was sentenced to a further 138 years' imprisonment on charges of attempted murder, four of robbery with aggravating circumstances, and several of unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Alex Maila, 29, of Atteridgeville, was sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a woman in one of the houses they robbed, and to 107 years on three charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Some of the sentences are to run concurrently.

The two broke into homes in Wonderboom and Sinoville over six months in 2010 and 2011 before they were caught.

Mokalapa admitted that he had broken into the home of Georgios Savvides and his wife Emmerentia in March 2011.

He said Maila shot Mr Savvides in the stomach through his bedroom door when he peeped out after hearing his wife scream for help in another room. He died on the scene.

Maila denied guilt on the murder charge and also denied breaking into the Savvides' home.

Both men admitted to breaking into other homes and robbing the owners at gunpoint, and trying to murder Sinoville homeowner Leon van der Merwe after breaking into his home in June 2011.

Mokalapa said in a statement he had put his gun to Van der Merwe's head and pulled the trigger when Van der Merwe tried to fight back. The shot did not go off.

Both had their first brushes with the law at a young age, but always received suspended sentences. Preller said the benefit of suspended sentences did not seem to have deterred them.

He was not surprised that both were unemployed, given how busy they were committing crime.

They had not co-operated with the police and never offered to show where their loot could be found, or to point out who had bought it.

Van der Merwe's wife Magriet and son Leon, who attended sentencing, expressed relief that the two had been removed from society.

Magriet van der Merwe said the case proved how empowering it could be to be part of an active community watch and community policing forum.

Mokalapa and Maila were caught a few blocks from their house after residents blocked the streets throughout the night and helped police.

Magriet said the incident had negatively affected her husband's health but she did not hate the two, because then she would become like them.