It was not necessary to kill the wife and child of a Free State farmer during a robbery on their farm near Lindley, Bloemfontein High Court Judge George Wright said on Thursday.
“(They) could have worn a mask for the aim,” said Wright during the sentencing of six men found guilty of murdering and robbing farmer Attie Potgieter, wife Wilna and two-year-old daughter Wilmien.
Only one of the men who took part in the robbery on the farm in December 2010, Tshekolo Letlala, was somewhat known to the family, the court held.
Wright described the murders as “gruesome, barbaric and detestable”.
“Just three of the accused were part of the killing process,” said Wright.
He sentenced Letlala, 19, and Telleko Seekoei, 20, to three life imprisonment terms each for the killing of Potgieter, his wife and child.
Letlala also received 19 years imprisonment for the robbery and for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Seekoei received 15 years imprisonment for robbery with aggravating circumstances.
The court held that these two men and Diphapang Motaung, 18, were responsible for the 151 stab and laceration wounds inflicted on Attie Potgieter, and on the woman and child.
“The brutality of the attack makes all the mitigating arguments insignificant,” said Wright, adding that they had shown no remorse during the trial.
One of Potgieter’s employees, Paulus Khumalo, 33, was sentenced to two life imprisonment terms for the murder of Potgieter and his wife. Wright said Khumalo planned the robbery.
He approached his brother-in-law and co-accused Letlala and the others to launch the attack on the farm.
The court held he probably influenced the others in taking part in the crimes, and had shown no remorse, while trying to downplay his part.
Motaung was found to have taken part in killing one of the Potgieters. He was a minor at the time.
Wright said the murders of Wilna and Wilmien were particularly gruesome. Both had been hacked at least once with a panga, before being shot.
Wright said Motaung’s role in the murders was as serious as Letlala's and Seekoei's.
Although it was impossible to determine exactly what Motaung had done, his version of the events was a fabrication.
Wright mentioned that a pre-sentencing report on Motaung indicated he acknowledged having handled the garden fork during the murders. Evidence indicated some of the wounds on Attie Potgieter had been inflicted with a similar object.
Motaung was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each for the three murders and 15 years on the robbery count. He had to serve 30 years in prison and would not be eligible for parole before two-thirds of his term had been served.
Wright also sentenced the fifth man, Potgieter employee Stemmer Mofokeng to 30 years behind bars for killing Potgieter, and 15
years for robbery. The sentences would run concurrently.
The sixth man, farm worker Klaas Mofokeng, 34, was sentenced to seven years in prison for robbing the family. He was the only accused not linked to the murders, but was found guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances for sharing the loot afterwards.
After sentencing Wilna’s sister Anna Naude was in tears. The Potgieter family did not want to comment.
Family members of the six men were also at court during the sentencing. -