File picture: ANA Pictures

Welkom - A 31-year-old gardener has been sentenced to life for the murder of his elderly woman employer in Welkom in the Free State, police said on Wednesday.

Police spokesperson, Captain Stephen Thakeng, said that on October 6, 2015, Bloemfontein resident Anna Nothnagel was celebrating her birthday but became worried when her mother, 72-year-old Sophia Magarita Gehring, who lived alone in Flora Street in Riebeeckstad, did not contact her as she normally did on her birthday.

According to the police statement, Nothnagel tried several times to contact her mother, sending her messages, but there was no response, and she became concerned.

Later that same afternoon she decided to travel from Bloemfontein to Riebeeckstad with her husband to check on her mother. The police and local security firm Shepherd Security were also contacted.

"Upon arrival, the lifeless and swollen body of Mrs Gehring was found inside her bedroom, with her hands and feet tied up, her head was covered with a plastic," Thakeng said. "Her clothes were scattered everywhere, and her two cellphones and jewellery were taken. 

"The suspect gained entry through the back door. A case of murder was registered and the police worked around the clock to ensure that the culprit of this gruesome deed faces the law. The gardener, Solomon Tladi Tlake [31] was arrested for the murder." 

The investigation was led by Detective Sergeant Boipelo Mmolawa of the Welkom Detective Services and Tlake duly appeared before the Bloemfontein Regional court and was found guilty as charged. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, and 15 years for robbery.