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Ex-soldier found guilty of murder

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The IO arrived on the scene and found Mamogale sitting on the bed, with the rifle in his mouth, while Shelly lay on the floor

John Thapelo Mamogale

WHILE Armed Forces Day celebrations kicked off in Kimberley yesterday, a former SANDF sergeant was found guilty of murdering his wife by shooting her with a R4 assault rifle at a local guest house.

Appearing in the Northern Cape High Court, John “Thapelo” Mamogale was yesterday found guilty of the murder of his 27-year-old spouse, Shelley, who died in a room at the Boitumelo Jwa Sechaba Guest House in Minerva Gardens on February 5, 2012 as a result of a gunshot to the head.

Mamogale used an assault rifle that he had “booked out” from the SANDF shortly before the murder, which occurred amidst allegations that his wife was having an extramarital affair.

A post-mortem revealed that the bullet had entered Shelly’s cheek, below her eye, exited through her jaw and re-entered her chest. The fatal shot was fired from less than 30cm away from the deceased’s face and it was further found that she was on her knees (in a submissive position), with Mamogale standing over her, as the shot came from above.

On the day of the incident, Mamogale had a heated argument with his wife about a suspicious number saved on her cellphone, before she gave him her wedding rings and said that “she was finished with him and wanted a divorce”.

Mamogale testified that he thought this was “the end” of their relationship and that he then decided to commit suicide.

After the argument with his wife, Mamogale went home to got dressed in his uniform and, while not being booked for a shift, reported to his duty office where he obtained the R4 assault rifle, telling colleagues that he was going to “do some rounds”.

However, Mamogale admitted to the court that he had been lying and drove away thinking that he would shoot himself.

He testified that he had then first phoned his wife, who didn’t answer, and then phoned the suspicious number, which he had memorised.

“A man answered the number and I asked him what was going on between him and my wife. He said I should ask my wife. He told me who he was and I realised that he stayed in the same guest house as my wife,” Mamogale told the court.

Mamogale said that he then drove to the guest house to confront his wife and the man in question, but turned around in front of the gate and decided to go and get his mother-in-law first, and make her come with him.

“On my way to my mother-in-law, I heard something fall on the back seat. I remembered the firearm, stopped and placed it in the car’s boot. After arriving at my mother-in-law’s house, I told her about the phone number and then took her with me to the guest house,” he said.

After gaining access to his wife’s room at the guest house, an argument apparently broke out, with Mamogale telling his wife that he knew about the man at the guest house.

According to his testimony, his mother-in-law insisted on calling the man, who then came into the room.

Hereafter Mamogale’s testimony became hazy.

“I can’t remember what we talked about or what happened. All I can remember is that I was alone in the room with my wife lying on the floor I had the weapon in my hand When I saw her I knew there were problems I phoned a friend and told him that I think I shot my wife Immediately, there were police They talked but I can’t remember what they said I also wanted to shoot myself It was chaos They (police) then took me to the police station,” Mamogale said.

However, according to evidence presented by witnesses staying at the guest house, including the man Mamogale accused his wife of having an affair with, they said that they had heard two shots (being fired into the room) and then a few minutes silence (when only Shelly could be heard saying “Thapelo, forgive me”), and then Mamogale saying “goodbye” before shooting his wife once.

Mamogale’s mother-in-law, Rosette Rakhunoana, testified that in a cruel twist of fate, a motorised garage door at the guest house closed in front of her as she heard her daughter’s last screams.

“When we arrived at the guest house, he told me to call Shelley. She didn’t answer immediately and we eventually went to her room to find her. They started fighting again,” Rakhunoana said.

“The two apparently argued over a number that was saved on Shelley’s cellphone. Her husband apparently suspected that she had saved a man’s number under a woman’s name in an attempt to deceive him. We all went into Shelley’s room – me, Thapelo, Shelley and this man (whose number was on the cellphone).”

Rakhunoane added that the argument became so heated that she decided that it was time for Mamogale to leave.

“He said he wanted to show me something before we left and we walked to the car, which was parked in the garage. I saw him taking out a long gun. I screamed at my daughter to lock herself in the room. Shelley ran to close the door while I was still in the garage.

“I heard a shot and screamed at Thapelo to leave her alone. At that moment the garage door closed in front of me. I heard Shelley shouting ‘Mama, help me!’ and that was the last thing I heard from my child.”

Rakhunoane said that she had then run into a veld and asked a neighbour to phone the police.

The investigating officer arrived on the scene and found Mamogale sitting on the bed, with the rifle in his mouth, while Shelly lay on the floor.

Mamogale’s regimental sergeant major (RSM) also arrived on the scene and managed to convince Mamogale to put down the rifle, before he was arrested.

The man, who Mamogale suspected of being in a relationship with his wife, continuously denied the relationship while being asked by Mamogale about it on the day of the incident but, while testifying in court, candidly admitted that he and Shelly were in an “intimate relationship”.

Mamogale was yesterday found guilty of murder (with direct intent), by Northern Cape High Court Judge Cecile Williams, and the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Sentencing procedures are expected to continue in the Northern Cape High Court today.