A 17-year-old member of a gang which invaded a farm house and shot dead sleeping farmer Guy Ian Gardner, 28, in February last year, was jailed for life by the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday.
Acting Judge Kobus Booyens who, with two assessors, convicted the killer youth (Sandile Molefe whose age was given as 20 in the indictment, but later claimed to be only 18 now and 17 at the time of the murder) said courts often had to deal with "criminals of 17 to 20 years who show no respect for life and commit vicious crimes and then plead for mercy because of their youth. It is time that courts say they will be punished like adults if they behave like adult criminals. In this trial, the criminal showed maturity beyond his years and did not evince remorse," Booyens said.
The angry, embittered mother of Gardner, Joan Wilcock, said the killer would still have a life of sorts in jail, but Guy's life had been cruelly obliterated. She and her husband, Stuart Wilcock, are to return to New Zealand when they have completed tasks here.
Booyens said the killer grew up in a poor, but stable family in which violence was not prevalent - little different to the same situation of millions who grow up in poor circumstances but become useful citizens.
Booyens said the accused, who was probably the gang member who shot Gardner in his sleep, had shown no remorse, either to the probation officer, or during the trial.
Even the callous act of shooting dead a sleeping man did not deter him and his gang from going about the house, ransacking it, loading possessions onto the Wilcocks' truck and fleeing.
The prevalence of these farm attacks needed the courts to protect the victims. Farms were often isolated and far from law enforcement agencies and attackers knew there was little chance of them being caught. Booyens also imposed a 15-year sentence for the aggravated robbery.
Prosecutor Advocate Rita Nel said the gang could have prevented Guy from resisting them from robbing their home by forcing him at gunpoint into a toilet and locking him up, as they had done with the domestic servant.
Booyens congratulated SAPS Inspector Theo Holder and his team on the investigation which led to the conviction. He said there had been very few clues with which to start.