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Girlfriend killer gets 15 years

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“The death of the deceased was senseless as she was killed after she could not give an explanation about a phone call she received”

A NIEKERKSHOOP man has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment after he was found guilty of the “senseless” murder of his girlfriend.

The Northern Cape High Court found Benjamin Lottering, 42, guilty of murder with dolus eventualis (legal term for intention) for killing Jacoline van Wyk on the evening of January 27, 2019.

Van Wyk died as a result of suffocation and swelling of her brain after she was assaulted by Lottering at his parental home.

The post-mortem found that Van Wyk had suffered injuries to her neck and face, while she had also sustained a combination of head and brain injuries and her lungs had collapsed. It was also found that her brain had shifted to the right and there was severe swelling that was caused by blunt trauma.

The incident happened after Van Wyk apparently received a phone call from an unknown number. Lottering wanted to know the identity of the caller.

Acting Judge AS Sieberhagen yesterday described the death of Van Wyk as “senseless”.

“The death of the deceased was senseless as she was killed after she could not give an explanation about a phone call she received,” she said.

Sieberhagen said the fact that Lottering had not denied that Van Wyk had died as a result of the assault he inflicted on her, was a mitigating factor.

“The accused did not dispute that the deceased died as a result of injuries inflicted during the assault, this is a mitigating factor.”

She said the court also took into consideration the time Lottering had spent behind bars awaiting the finalisation of his trial.

“The accused was arrested on January 27, 2019 and has been in custody since. The accused has been found guilty of assault previously. Those offences, however, were committed several years ago and the court views the accused as a first offender.”

The State, represented by advocate Keageletse Ilanga, during pre-sentencing arguments, asked the court to impose a greater sentence than the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years.

“The offence the accused has been found guilty of is very serious. The courts consider human life to be precious. Any sentence the court imposes should send a message that life is not cheap. What is aggravating in this matter is the fact that the accused was in a relationship with the deceased. The accused was meant to protect the deceased,” Ilanga said.

She added that the sentence needed to send a message that gender-based violence would not be tolerated.

“The murder was senseless as the deceased was killed over a phone call. The accused wanted to control the deceased. The deceased was killed at a place where she thought she was safe. The deceased became part of the horrible statistics where we hear of women being killed at the hands of men. Women are not safe on the streets and now they are not safe in their own homes.”

Ilanga said that Van Wyk’s death had a ripple effect on her family.

“The deceased had three children, who have now been robbed of their mother. The mother of the deceased has to take care of and raise the children. The mother receives a social grant for the children as a source of income. The children will never hear the voice of their mother, nor will they feel her love as she has been ripped from their lives. The sentence should send a message to like-minded persons that they will face the same harsh sentence if they are found guilty of gender-based violence.”

Lottering’s lawyer, Heinrich Steynberg, said that the State had placed too much emphasis on the fact that the matter was a gender-based violence case.

“If the legislature wanted gender-based violence to be considered as a factor in sentencing, it would have imposed a minimum sentence. The accused should not be harshly sentenced because it was a gender-based violence incident as that does not make the murder special as every murder is special,” said Steynberg.

He added that although the matter was labelled as gender-based violence, it was not the intention of Lottering to kill Van Wyk.

“The accused is a man and the deceased is a woman who died at the hands of her partner who was supposed to protect her. The children of the deceased have lost a mother. The mitigating factor is, however, that the accused never planned the incident and neither did he deny the incident. The accused did not have a direct intent to kill the deceased. The incident was committed on the spur of the moment. A sentence of more than 15 years will be harsh as the accused did not have a direct intent to kill the deceased,” he argued.