He said he only had a vague recollection of what happened that day. “I am sorry for my actions and I take full responsibility,” Alfred Freddy Setlale, 36, said.
However, the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, was having none of this and on Monday sentenced him to an effective 30 years' imprisonment for murdering his wife and 6-year-old son.
Apart from pleading guilty to the double murder, Setlale admitted to the attempted murder of his other son, aged 5, and an 18-month-old daughter.
The court heard that Setlale snapped on August 15 last year during an argument with his wife Delane Setlale, 34. He shot her in front of two of his three children, before turning his firearm on them.
He first fired several shots in a fit of rage at his wife at their Putfontein, Benoni, house, hitting her in the face and chest. She died instantly.
He then turned his gun on his 6-year-old son who was asleep in his bed.
He shot the sleeping child in the head and chest. Tshepo Selale also died instantly in his bed.
While he fired at his wife and son, his other son Tshegofatso tried to run out of the house. “I called his name and he turned around and looked at me. I then fired a shot at him, but it missed,” Selale said in a written explanation of plea.
He then grabbed his 18-month-old daughter Matsepo and threw her against a wall. The child did not die but she suffered such severe head injuries that she had to remain in hospital for several weeks.
Setlale, who worked for a company which installed and maintained fire extinguishers, entered into a plea-bargain agreement with the State in terms of which he pleaded guilty to all the charges, in exchange for an effective 30-year jail term.
He explained that on the day of the killings he left the children with a neighbour as his wife was not yet home. She was annoyed with him for leaving the children and disappearing and she went to look for him.
She found him a few houses down the road and told him to return home. The two became embroiled in a bitter argument about his behaviour and Setlale refused to go home.
His wife later went back to look for him and found him sitting in his car. Setlale said he wanted to avoid further confrontation and that was the reason he did not go home.
His wife eventually convinced him to go home, but she continued the argument at home. He said he could not recall exactly what had happened, but he snapped while in a fit of rage as his wife would not leave him alone.
He owned a licensed firearm, which he usually carried around his waist and which he turned on his family. He then wanted to commit suicide by shooting himself, but got cold feet.
Setlale said that although he acted while enraged, he knew at the time that his conduct was wrong and punishable. He said he only had a vague recollection of what happened that day.
“I am sorry for my actions and I take full responsibility,” he said.
The court was told that his conduct was totally out of character that day as he was a loving family man and had held a stable job for years.
It was said, though, that on the other hand, femicide was prevalent and very serious.
It was said in aggravation that his son whom he had shot dead was an innocent and defenceless child who was killed in his sleep. The other son, who had survived the ordeal, was so affected that he needed psychological therapy.
The State said Setlale’s family relied on him for love and protection. His two children will now have to grow up without any parents - the one being dead and the other in jail. They are in the care of their paternal grandparents.