Mbuyiselo Fish in the Kimberley High Court. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Kimberley - Three life sentences were handed down in the Northern Cape High Court on Thursday for Mbuyiselo Fish, 34, after he was convicted for assaulting, raping and killing the mother of his two young children.

He was found guilty of smothering Bettie Thenza, 32, to death by using of a pillow. Her lifeless body was discarded in a street in Promised Land in February 2013.

The autopsy report indicated that she had sustained incision wounds after the accused inserted a knife into her vagina and anus while she was still alive.

Judge Mpho Mamosebo pointed out that despite the seriousness of the offences, Fish never showed any remorse, even after he was found guilty of the crimes.

She highlighted how the persistent years of abuse, suffered at the hands of the accused, only ended when Thenza died.

Mamosebo was convinced that Fish had full knowledge of the consequences of his actions.

“An assailant, who applies manual pressure to the throat and neck, even for a brief period, either recognises or disregards the possible consequences, as there are warnings signs from the victim’s reaction.

“He brutally killed her and while no sentence can bring a person back to life, an appropriate sentence can help bring a measure of closure to the family.”

She indicated that the deceased was rendered defenceless, due to the large amount of alcohol that was found in her bloodstream.

“She could barely put up any resistance. The accused smothered her with a pillow until the last breath in her body was squeezed out.”

While taking into account Fish’s ill health, Mamosebo pointed out Fish needed to take responsibility and accountability for his actions.

“He was evaluated by a panel of psychiatrists who were of the opinion that, at the time of the crime, he was fully aware of what he was doing.”

The judge acknowledged that compelling circumstances included that the accused suffered from bipolar mood disorder, HIV and haemorrhaging on the brain.

“There is evidence that patients with bipolar disorder tend to abuse substances that can lead to a relapse or may cause patients to leave their medication.

“Psychiatrist, Dr Keith Kirimi, assessed the accused. The patient is described as being delusional, irritable, makes impulsive decisions and can be outright psychotic. It is highly discouraged and unwise for a person receiving bipolar treatment to consume alcohol and drugs, which is what the accused has done.”

She noted that it was never disputed that the use of alcohol and drugs had caused the accused to become aggressive and violent towards the deceased.

Mamosebo stated that it would be expected that prison authorities would oversee his treatment.

“It is clear that he needs to be kept in a regulated and controlled environment where he receives assistance in taking his medication consistently. It is important that he is monitored and kept away from vulnerable women. The accused is safer while he is incarcerated.”

She indicated that the accused was a habitual dagga smoker while he was taking medication for his bipolar disorder.

“Since his incarceration the accused only smokes tobacco. He is unmarried.”

Mamosebo noted that the accused’s daughters were very young when the crimes were committed.

“The eldest daughter (now ten years old) is not a healthy child. The accused never provided financial assistance for his children, either while he was employed or when he received a disability grant. Therefore he cannot be considered a primary caregiver of his minor children. The children are currently residing with their aunt.”

Mamosebo added that not only had Fish not contributed towards Thenza’s burial but he displayed extreme insensitivity when he arrived at the funeral with a new girlfriend.

“The undertaker, who buried the deceased in Ritchie, is still owed an amount of R800.”

The accused, who had provided his own legal representation, had requested the court to grant him correctional supervision or community service as punishment.

Mamosebo stated that Fish had placed his compelling circumstances on record as having his own residence where construction would begin in due course.

“He was to be reunited with his children as the only surviving parent and wants to make peace with the deceased’s family and be reintegrated into the community.”

She noted that the deceased’s family were still struggling to come to terms with Thenza’s cruel death.

“The deceased’s mother is still sick following her daughter’s death and her aunt was extremely emotional when interviewed by the social worker. The deceased’s stepmother and aunt related that they were still dealing with the trauma of Thenza’s death. The family did not have the finances to bury the deceased and although the accused’s family had promised to contribute, they never did.”

Mamosebo pointed out that violence against women in society was rife.

“Rape is humiliating and degrading and a brutal invasion of the victim’s privacy and dignity.

“It must have been a very painful and traumatic for the deceased. The accused lacked any sense of humanity.”

She indicated that the community expected the court to protect women against such crimes.

“State Advocate Joyleen Mabaso contended that the community cannot condone the behaviour of the accused, where the deceased was afraid of Fish. He physically abused her and insulted her dignity in the presence of her family and friends.”

Mamosebo said the three life sentences in respect of the murder and rape charges, as well as the two years imprisonment for the assault GBH charge would run concurrently.

Fish indicated that he would immediately seek legal assistance to appeal.

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