A 62-year-old Free State game farmer has been slapped with three life terms for killing three young men and burying their bodies in shallow graves.
When the bodies of the men were finally found two weeks after they had gone missing, they were already decomposed but investigations showed that they had been shot in their heads.
The Virginia High Court sentenced Johan Pieter Sonnenberg for the murders of Michael Grant, 20, Jerome Desmond Grant, 28, and Riaan Ruiters, 23 on Thursday.
According to Free State police spokesperson Constable Peter Kareli, the three were reported missing in February 2014 in Christiana, North West.
Sonnenberg used go to Christiana for entertainment purposes but it was not known what relationship he had with the dead men.
Cristiana Police received information that they (the three victims) were last seen in February with Mr Pieter Sonnenberg crossing over the bridge to his Game Farm Diamant, on the border between Christiana in the North West and Hertzogville in the Free State," Kareli said.
He added that a warrant to search Sonnenberg’s farm was obtained.
“Strikfontein K9 unit joined by Christiana Diving Unit and Detectives, combed through the Game Farm with the help of members from Hertzogville and Christiana visible policing as well as Hertzogville Detectives,” he said.
Kareli said during the search a foul smell was detected and three shallow graves were then discovered.
"The National Forensic Services were contacted from Pretoria to help in exhumation of the bodies in shallow graves,” he added.
The exhumations revealed that the bodies were were the missing men.
Sonnenberg was arrested and when his house was searched, police found different types of ammunition but no weapons.
“Free State Provincial task Team led by Detective Lieutenant-Colonel Tankiso Sefuthi was entrusted with investigations and they made sure that justice was served,” he said.
“Free State Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Moeketsi Sempe lauded the task team allocated in investigating the case and hopes that the families of the three deceased will find closure,” he added.