Johannesburg - The trial of the five men accused of brutally murdering a couple was on Friday scheduled to begin mid 2018 by the Johannesburg High Court.

Sabatha Matoko, 30, Lindokhule Tembani, 24, Thamsanqa Msezane, 21 and Londani Mzama,23, sat in the dock with their heads down. The fifth suspect Bheki Mzama,28, was not present in court. He remains admitted at a prison hospital.

The group allegedly raped Jeanette Cindi, 34, several times before setting her and her friend Lungelo Buthelezi, 31, alight. The brutal attack occurred in April while the pair were on their way home from a night out, in Kagiso, west of Johannesburg.

The accused face two counts of murder, three of rape, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and negligent driving.

Friends, relatives and Kagiso community members filled the gallery. They were there to show support the families of Cindi and Buthelezi.

The State intends to call as many as 39 witnesses when the trial begins. 

State Prosecutor Carla Britz told Judge Carla Van Veenendal that the next available date for the trial to begin was 21 May 2018. 

There was no objection to the date, so it was set. All the accused will remain in custody at the Johannesburg Prison, also known as Sun City.