Sizzlers killers get life

By Fatima Schroeder Time of article published Mar 17, 2004

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Trevor Theys and Adam Woest stared straight ahead as Judge Nathan Erasmus sentenced them to nine life terms each for the murder of nine men at the Sizzlers massage parlour in Sea Point last year, as well as 40 years for related charges.

Erasmus, in sentencing Woest, 27, and Theys, 44, said they should stay behind bars until they died.

As the judge read out each life sentence, gasps of shock came from the public gallery and relatives of the victims held each other, some shedding tears.

Erasmus said the offence represented "unparalleled savagery" and added that they were well-planned and premeditated, displaying "extreme callousness and gruesomeness".

The case, which shocked the country and made international headlines, took less than two weeks to be tried in the Cape High Court.

And, echoing the judge's remarks that he intended to impose a sentence that would have the effect of permanently removing the men from society, the sole survivor of the attack, Quinton Taylor, said he didn't mind that the men would never taste freedom again.

As the court adjourned, Theys turned around to be handcuffed and taken down to the cells. An expressionless Woest stared straight ahead without blinking an eyelid.

Last Thursday, the men were convicted of the murders of Aubrey Otgaar, Sergio De Castro, Stephanus Fouche, Travis Reade, Johan Meyer and Timothy Boyd, Gregory Berghaus, Marius Meyer and Warren Visser, and the attempted murder of Taylor.

In passing sentence, Erasmus told the men the court had a responsibility to act "fearlessly" and the sentences reflected that.

He began sentencing by telling Woest and Theys: "We have arrived at a stage that I'm sure you and possibly the general public were the most anxious about."

He described sentencing as "the most difficult stage of the trial for any trial judge" in which "one human being decides the fate of another".

Judge Erasmus said the constitution protected human dignity, the right to life and freedom and that the court had a duty to uphold these for the accused and the victims.

He said punishment should reflect the gravity of the offence as well as the rights of the victims, the relatives of the accused and the interests of society.

"The time has come that more weight should be attributed to the interests of the victims of this crime," he said.

He said it was apparent that neither of the accused had had easy lives, but that they were successful in their careers.

"Your attitude towards your fellow human beings was that of utter callousness," he said.

Commenting on defence counsel's arguments that the men had shown remorse, Erasmus said: "The inference is inescapable that this claim of remorse is not genuine, but based on self pity."

The judge said the killings "had far-reaching consequences, both locally and internationally", adding that investigating officer Jonathan Morris had testified that it was the worst murder he had investigated in his 27 years as a policeman.

"You not only intended to kill but intended to humiliate them," he said.

Judge Erasmus explained to the two men that, under the country's current sentencing regime, the highest sentence a court could impose was one of life imprisonment.

He said he was aware that there was a general perception that this meant that a convicted person only has to serve 25 years of imprisonment, irrespective of the number of life terms imposed by the court.

"While it is so that all sentences are served concurrently with the life sentence for obvious reasons, I do not understand the law to be that a person serving a life sentence is automatically eligible for parole," he said.

He said that the courts had a duty to determine the length of a sentence after having taken due regard of all known factors at the time of imposing the sentence.

Judge Erasmus said he was aware that the court could not prescribe to the national advisory committee or the relevant (parole) organs, but added that he was aware that the committee would take note of the sentencing remarks of the presiding judge. "I therefore propose that my comments in this case be placed before any organ that may consider parole for the accused should it become necessary," he said.

Judge Erasmus said that, even if the prescribed minimum sentence for premeditated murder was not life imprisonment, he would in any event have imposed a sentence which would have had the effect of permanently removing the men from society.

He found that there were no substantial or compelling circumstances to justify lesser sentences and sentenced each

of the men to terms of life imprisonment for each of the nine murders.

Both were also each sentenced to 20 years for the attempted murder of Taylor, 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances, three years for the unlawful possession of firearms and two years for the unlawful possession of ammunition.

Theys was also sentenced to five years for the theft of a firearm, which was ordered to be served concurrently with the sentences for the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. Both men were declared unfit to possess firearms and Judge Erasmus ordered that his remarks be placed in their prison files "wherever they may find themselves".

Relatives of the accused and the victims as well as members of the public and the media had gathered outside the court's holding cells where they waited for the men to be taken to prison.

Woest came out of the cells in the back of a police van and covered his head. Members of the public ran after the van, banging fists against its sides.

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