Four-time luck runs out as judge jails him for killing spree
Nelspruit - Four-time killer Bheki Themba Simelane, 41, has finally been convicted and sentenced in the High Court sitting in Graskop in Mpumalanga on Friday after he had twice been released following his arrest in connection with the first two murders due to a lack of evidence against him and was released on bail after he was arrested for the third murder
The court heard how Simelane, who regarded himself as a traditional healer, went on a killing spree between 2013 and 2016. His targets were car owners, Mpumalanga South African Police Service (SAPS) spokesman Colonel Donald Mdhluli said in a statement.
On November 16, 2013, Pienaar resident Henry Twala, the owner of a Red VW Polo, was reported missing. Two days later, on November 18, 2013, his lifeless body was found dumped in a river at Masoyi.
A case of murder and robbery was opened, as well as a case of theft of a motor vehicle. The police investigation led to Simelane's arrest for being in possession of Twala’s VW Polo on November 30, 2013. However, Simelane escaped prosecution after the public prosecutor directed police to pursue the matter further, as the evidence against Simelane at the time was not enough to secure a conviction. Simelane was then released, Mdhluli said.
Simelane's next target was Samuel Mandla Sithole, the owner of a Silver Grey VW Polo, whose lifeless body was discovered in a pit-toilet not far from Simelane's home on February 20, 2014. A case of murder was opened and on March 26, 2014 Simelane was arrested at a car wash in Matsulu for possession of Sithole’s car. Again the evidence was not strong enough to convict Simelane of Sithole’s murder and he was released, Mdhluli said.
"Simelane went on with his 'modus operandi' without hesitation to terrorise his victims and on 28 December 2014, police found the body of Mr Tullen Mhlongo, 50 years of age, in a dumping site at Kabokweni. Mhlongo was the owner of a Red Opel Corsa and an Inquest docket, following his death, was investigated by police."
On January 2, 2015, the Mhlongo family opened a theft of a motor vehicle case, as they did not know the whereabouts of Mhlongo’s car. On January 12, 2015, Simelane was once again arrested, for being in possession of Mhlongo’s Opel Corsa, but was released on bail, Mdhluli said.
"He moved on to his next victim, unbeknown that this would be his last time to strike. On 16 February 2016, the body of Ms Enika Ndlovu, aged 56, was found at a house in Masoyi. During this gruesome discovery of her body, police also found a child in the house who was still alive, but the investigations revealed that there were attempts by the suspect to harm or even kill the minor.
"Ndlovu’s death came at a time when she has just bought herself a brand new blue Ford Eco Sport two weeks earlier. Her car, as well as a TV set and two cellphones, were stolen. A case of murder and robbery was opened," Mdhluli said.
"The detectives worked around the clock and connected all the dots to crack the case." The blue Ford Eco Sport was traced and recovered at a house in Dwarsloop near Bushbuckridge. Police followed up information, which led to Simelane's arrest on May 22, 2016.
This time, Simelane was positively linked to all the murder and robbery cases. He was eventually found guilty on nine charges. In handing down sentence on Friday, Judge Henk Roelofse "indicated that Simelane was not fit to ever live with other people in the society". Simelane was handed four life sentences for murder, 10 years for attempted murder, and 15 years for each of the four robberies, Mdhluli said.
Mpumalanga police commissioner Lt-Gen Mondli Zuma welcomed the sentences handed to Simelane. He commended the "sterling work" done by the detectives in solving these cases.
"Police have indeed displayed a high level of professionalism, and working in partnership with the community as well as the criminal justice cluster, we managed to remove Simelane from society for good.
"Simelane has robbed families of their loved ones because of his greed and selfishness. People like Simelane should not be allowed to roam around the streets of our society freely while preying on defenceless victims. I urge the public to notify police of such criminals so that we send them where they belong," Zuma said.