‘Sex slave’ gardener’s jail term for killing pensioner reduced
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Johannesburg – The life imprisonment sentence of a murderer has been reduced on the grounds that the trial magistrate erred by ignoring his submissions that he killed his victim because he resented her for making him her sex slave.
Gibson Lion Zwelakhe, a gardener, shocked many in Carletonville when he confessed to murdering 73-year-old pensioner Destiny Geyser Newberry.
Now aged 50, Zwelakhe was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Oberholzer Regional Court in 2019 after pleading guilty.
Newberry’s body was found in an open field. Zwelakhe confessed to hitting her with a hammer while she drove her Chevrolet Spark. He was seated at the back of the car.
While he accepted his conviction, Zwelakhe went to the Pretoria High Court to appeal the life sentence.
He submitted in the high court that the Oberholzer Regional Court failed to consider substantial and compelling
circumstances that could have compelled deviation from the minimum sentence of life prescribed for premeditated murders.
These circumstances were detailed in his own plea statement that the State accepted and had relied on in the case.
Zwelakhe divulged the circumstances that he maintained drove him to commit the heinous crime in the plea.
Newberry stayed at an old age home where Zwelakhe was a gardener. He stated in the plea statement that Newberry started paying him for sex.
She later refused to keep up with payments though still demanding sex, he submitted. “I was tired of being her sex slave. The deceased was also very clear about keeping what we were doing as a secret.
“She was making it difficult for me to earn a living as a gardener at the old age (home) as she was always demanding that I only go to her place, thereby costing me an income. I was resentful of the deceased,” he said.
Magistrate Thelma Simpson rejected Zwelakhe’s submissions when passing sentence. She labelled them as “utter nonsense and unacceptable”.
But Zwelakhe’s appeal at the high court went partly in his favour. Judge Vuyelwa Tlhapi ruled in a judgment delivered on Friday that Simpson misdirected herself by ignoring Zwelakhe’s reasons.
“It is my view that the trial court failed to consider the reasons the appellant gave for the murder and apply the principles established when it assessed whether substantial and compelling circumstances were present or not,” said Judge Tlhapi.
“It is my view that … the learned magistrate failed to assess the possibility that the appellant felt like a ’sex slave’; that the deceased’s decision to stop paying for the sex while making demands for more sex impacted on him and made it difficult for him to earn money …
“The offence was very serious and an appropriate sentence in deviation is in my view one of 25 years’ imprisonment,” she said.
A life sentence would have meant Zwelakhe would be eligible for parole after serving 25 years in jail. The reviewed sentence meant he would be eligible for parole after serving a portion of the 25 years.