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Accused ‘can be rehabilitated’

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Esel had a number of prior convictions, starting in 2006, he was only 28 years old and a lengthy prison sentence would provide enough time for rehabilitation

Jacob Esel. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A BARKLY West man is facing likely jail time after his defence attorney agreed with the State that his client, who has pleaded guilty to rape and murder, should receive direct imprisonment.

Jacob Esel pleaded guilty in the Northern Cape High Court to the attempted rape of an elderly family member as well as the rape, murder and violation of another Barkly West resident.

Esel’s attorney, Heinrich Steynberg, believes that his client is young enough to be rehabilitated and that the State should deviate from imposing the maximum sentence for rape and murder.

“Although the crimes were brutal and callus he has shown remorse and fully co-operated from the time he was arrested,” Steynberg told the court.

“The crimes were horrible. He attempted to rape his elderly family member. He then went on to rape and kill Gotlamang Lizzah Moathlodi and left her body lying in a pool of blood for her minor daughter to find.

“There was a lot violence used in the crimes perpetrated. In the attempted rape he used a knife to subdue his family member. In the post-mortem report of Moathlodi it showed that she had 44 wounds to her body. Some of which were defensive wounds.”

Steynberg added that although Esel had a number of prior convictions, starting in 2006, he was only 28 years old and a lengthy prison sentence would provide enough time for rehabilitation.

Steynberg also stated that the court should take into consideration Esel’s personal circumstances.

“He is not married and has no dependants. He grew up with his grandmother, while his mother lives with his stepfather. He has only passed Grade 6 and left school in Grade 7. He soon became addicted to dagga and mandrax, which he is still addicted to. He has received no help in this regard.”

Steynberg added that Esel had never worked since leaving school.

“He has admitted and taken responsibility for his previous convictions. The house-breaking cases were to obtain money for drugs.”

Steynberg said that since the day Esel was arrested in 2018 he has been fully co-operative. “He even assisted the police in finding Moathlodi’s bloodied clothing although he could not remember exactly where he disposed of them. He fully intended to plead guilty. He never tried to evade responsibility.

“This should serve as a sign of remorse. He also did not apply for bail. He played open cards with the court right from the start.”

Steynberg said the court should also take into account that Esel has been in custody for 13 months.

He also called for all sentences to run concurrently.

State prosecutor Jacques Rosenberg, however, questioned why Esel, if he is as remorseful as he claims, waited so long to confess to the crimes. “He was arrested in February 2018, he only confessed to the crimes in November 2018.”

Rosenberg also stated that it wasn’t an “open and shut” case as the defence claimed.

“Esel knew he couldn’t get away from the crimes he committed. He attempted to rape someone who is a mother figure to him. He tried to violate a body so that no DNA evidence could be pointed back at him. He also fully intended to kill her because he didn’t want her to recognise him. And he was also very casual about the attempted rape with his friend Phumelo.”

Rosenberg stated further that Esel was very violent in his actions. “He cut Moathlodi several times in the area of her vagina. He then cut her open and took out her intestines. He did all of this so that the police would not be able to identify him. He tried to cover his tracks.”

Rosenberg added that if Esel was truly remorseful he would have walked away when his friend, Phumelo, said they should leave Moathlodi’s home after she indicated that she did not have any home-brewed beer for them.

Instead he took out a knife and raped her. What must also be remembered is that before raping and killing Moathlodi, he attempted to rape his family member. What type of person does this? He does not have any respect for females. It is because of his actions that he is here now.”

Rosenberg added that it was his submission that Esel is “violent, aggressive and has no respect for other human beings”.

“You just have to look at four of his previous convictions – damage to property, attempted murder, robbery with an element of violence and possession of a dangerous weapon. All this says that the accused is not a good candidate for rehabilitation.”

Rosenberg called on the court not to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence, even if it felt sorry for the accused.

“Imagine what must have been going on in the poor 70-year-old’s mind when her family member was trying to rape her.”

According to the victim report, Rosenberg said, the elderly relative did not testify as she felt that she could not live through another trauma.

“Esel showed no respect. This woman never expected this from him. She trusted him. Now she feels embarrassed that she had to expose her private parts to young doctors who had to examine her.

“She is also being victimised by the community. They point at her all the time.”

Rosenberg pointed out that there were 44 wounds on Moathlodi’s body – “but, what must be kept in mind is that she died as a result of strangulation. He just kept on stabbing her even though she was dead”.

“You can see that on her right hand are eight defensive wounds, which clearly indicates that she put up a struggle. Her left hand ring finger was almost cut off. I don’t need to call the doctor who conducted the post-mortem to tell us the amount of force which was needed to cut through to the bone.”

Rosenberg further stated that all of this happened in Moathlodi’s home, where the victim’s young daughter found her mom dead, lying in a pool of blood.

“Her mother sent her to buy something and when she came back she saw the blood on the stoep and when she went inside the house she found her mother. The social worker has indicated that the child is full of hatred for Esel, she can’t forgive him and never wants to see him ever again. She now has to live with this for the rest of her life.”

Rosenberg said that even if the court believed that Esel was remorseful, it should balance this with the merits of the case when meting out sentence.

He called for substantial imprisonment for Esel. “On the attempted rape the court needs to sentence him to 10 to 15 years. Count two and three (rape and murder) should be the mandatory minimum sentence and for count four (violating a corpse) the State calls for a minimum of 15 years imprisonment.”

Esel will be sentenced tomorrow.