Picture: Antoine de Ras

Durban - Former policemen and brothers, Brian and Leon Steven, who gunned down four men at an uMbilo pub, will be spending about two decades behind bars after their appeals were dismissed by the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday.

Brian, who was a warrant officer at the Mayville police station when the attack happened, and Leon, who was a sergeant at the Durban Central police station, were convicted of four counts of murder and one of attempted murder in September 2010.

The charges stemmed from the “heinous and callous” killings of Shawn Strydom, 32, Rory Menzies, 40, Nick Jansen van Rensburg, 47, and Bruce Edwards, 57, and the attempted murder of Edwards’s son, Shaun, 31, at the Merseyside Pub and Tavern in Umbilo in September, 2008.

Brian and Leon were jailed for 25 and 20 years respectively by Acting Judge Guido Penzhorn who said the murders had been “nothing short of a massacre”.

According to the evidence, the shooting followed a scuffle between Brian Steven and another patron which, depending on whose version is believed, was sparked by “banter over penis size”.

The State said the murders were premeditated as the brothers went outside to their cars and then returned with their guns to the pub and opened fire on the patrons.

Both men appealed against their convictions and sentences as they claimed they had shot in self-defence.

On Tuesday, Judge Gregory Kruger, with two judges concurring, confirmed the sentences and said the evidence did not support the brothers’ version.

“Given the unchallenged evidence of the independent witness, the car guard who saw the brothers force their way into the pub and then heard gunshots, the appellants could not have acted in self-defence.”

Judge Kruger also found that both brothers had been facing life imprisonment for the crimes and the sentences imposed were suitable.

Jansen van Rensburg’s wife, Rika, who said on Tuesday that she had not known the men had even appealed, was glad the court had refused.

“They deserve the sentences they got because they broke up and destroyed a lot of families. It is a good decision, they must stay in jail.”

Menzie’s mother, Marie Corbett, said she had had no doubt that the convictions and sentences would be upheld.

“I am happy that the appeals were refused. The consequences of what they did was devastating for our family and it will take a long time for us to pick up the pieces.” - The Mercury