Donovan Moodley's last desperate bid to have his life term behind bars for killing Leigh Matthews reduced has failed.

The Supreme Court of Appeal has dismissed Moodley's application for leave to appeal against his sentence, effectively putting an end to his efforts to escape prison life and bringing a sense of relief to Leigh's family.

Moodley's application for leave to appeal against his sentence was dismissed by the Johannesburg High Court last year - four years after he began serving his life term on August 4, 2005.

But then, three days before Christmas, he asked the second highest court in the land to grant him permission to protest against the decision to dismiss his application for leave to appeal.

During his trial in 2005, Moodley admitted to planning and executing Leigh's kidnapping from the Bond University campus in Sandton in July 2004. Moodley snatched the blonde student the day after she turned 21, held her for several hours, took R50 000 ransom money from her father Rob and then shot her to stop her from later identifying him.

Johannesburg High Court Judge Joop Labuschagne found Moodley guilty of kidnapping, extortion and murder, and sentenced him to life for the murder, an additional 15 years for kidnapping and 10 years for extortion.

Last year, four years to the day after Moodley withdrew his original application for leave to appeal, Judge Labuschagne again presided over the matter.

Moodley asked for leave to appeal against his life sentence on the grounds that Judge Labuschagne had "committed a material misdirection in imposing the sentence that he did", and described his sentence as "shockingly inappropriate".

In a second application for a special entry, Moodley compounded his case by stating that Judge Labuschagne also "committed a material irregularity in the proceedings during the conviction" in relation to the guilty plea by failing to clear up discrepancies in the confession.

The judge ruled that Moodley had failed to give satisfactory reasons why his applications had been filed years after the 14-day deadline had passed. He also ruled that he had not misdirected himself in any way, nor was the sentence handed down "grossly excessive".

Judge Labuschagne also ruled against the granting of a special entry, stating: "I am of the view that the application is frivolous and that granting it would be an abuse of the process of court and would lead to an appeal where there is no prospect of success."

Now the Supreme Court of Appeal has also dismissed Moodley's request for leave to appeal against his sentence.

Investigating officer Brigadier Piet Byleveld, the man who caught Moodley, said: "Nobody told me that the appeal was dismissed, but I am very pleased to hear that."

During his judgment, Judge Labuschagne ruled that Moodley had not acted alone in the killing.

Byleveld, who is to retire at the end of next month, said he was hopeful of further developments in this case before he leaves the police force.

"I have not given up. I'm not sitting still, I am still working," Byleveld said.

Rob Matthews also had not been informed of the development.

"We are absolutely delighted, obviously," he said when contacted by The Star yesterday.