Home News City man found guilty of double murder after setting his family alight

City man found guilty of double murder after setting his family alight

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The man was found guilty on six charges – two charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and one charge of arson.

Daniel Dipheko. Picture: Soraya Crowie

A 45-YEAR-old Phuthanang man, Daniel Dipheko, who was accused of setting his wife and children alight, was found guilty on all charges by the Northern Cape High Court on Friday.

Dipheko was found guilty on six charges – two charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and one charge of arson.

The murder charges relate to the death of his wife, Abigail Mogadile, who died in the Robert Sobukwe Hospital in Kimberley following the incident on December 13, 2018, and the death of the couple’s 18-year-old son, Tshepo Mogadile, who succumbed to his burn injuries two days after the incident.

Three other minor children survived but were treated for burn wounds.

Dipheko was arrested a day after the incident after he fled the scene. He pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

Judge President Pule Tlaletsi, during his judgment, went through the gruesome testimony of the witnesses, who previously told the court about the sequence of events on the night as well as prior to the fire.

In his judgment, Tlaletsi said the forensic report stated that both victims died from burn wounds and inhalation burns.

“According to the pathology report the entire body of the accused’s wife was burnt. The report said the burns were 100% and the mortality rate for that type of burn was 100%. Inhalation burns are cited to be the main cause of death in fire deaths. The report further stated that their son, Tshepo’s pelvic area was the only area that was not burnt. He also died from burn injuries and inhalation burns,” said Tlaletsi.

He said the issues the court had to look at was whether Dipheko brought the petrol to the house, whether he was the one who started the fire and, if he indeed started the fire, whether he had the intention to kill the deceased.

Tlaletsi said it was not in dispute that Dipheko was inside the house with his family when the fire started and that he sustained burn wounds from the incident.

“According to the accused, he was asleep in the main bedroom with his son Kutlwano and was awoken by screaming inside the house. When he opened the door he saw the flames from the fire. He said he saved his family by pushing them through the window. According to the accused, it was only Tshepo whom he could not find as the house was full of smoke.”

Tlaletsi said that while in Dipheko’s version of events that he was the “hero”, the testimony of several witnesses, as well as Dipheko’s actions after the incident, proved otherwise.

“The testimony of the daughter of the accused, Nthabeleng, was that her father splattered her mother with petrol and set her alight. Nthabeleng said the accused brought a green plastic cooldrink bottle which contained petrol home.

“She said the accused knocked off from work earlier than usual. It was the evidence from one of the accused’s colleague’s that the accused asked to knock off early on the day. The colleague also stated that the accused had a plastic cooldrink bottle which contained petrol with him.

“The doctor who examined the daughter said she had noticed an overwhelming smell of petrol on Nthabeleng’s clothes when she examined her after she was rushed to hospital following the incident.

“The forensic officials who went to the scene said they found a green plastic cooldrink bottle containing some petrol on the scene.

“It was also the version from the accused himself that he was burnt by petrol, when he went to seek medical assistance at the Homevale Medical Centre.”

Fourteen-year-old Nthabeleng suffered burn wounds to her back, which extended to her buttocks and on one of her arms.

Her seven-year-old sister sustained burn wounds to her arms and was hospitalised for three months. She required skin grafts to heal parts of the wounds.

Tlaletsi said Nthabeleng told the court that her father had accused her mother of being accompanied by a man after she and the children went to visit a relative in Club 2000 the day before the incident and that the subsequent argument continued the next day.

Tlaletsi said the statement the mother made to the police officer who was at the scene also corroborated the testimony of Nthabeleng, who pointed Dipheko out as the person who started the fire.

He said Dipheko’s implied accusation that the witnesses collaborated to pin the matter on him is inconceivable.

“The accused was nowhere to be found after the incident. One would have expected the accused to remain at the scene to explain how he had saved his family from the blaze. However, there was a manhunt established by the police to find him after the incident. The evidence of the witnesses supported each other and were not biased against the accused.”

Tlatetsi added that the fact that Dipheko opted not to testify in the trial also made his version of events untested.

Dipheko told the court through his legal adviser, before the start of the aggravating testimony by a relative of the deceased, that he wanted to testify before the court makes a ruling on his sentence.

The matter was postponed to October.