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Harsh sentences for brutal killers

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Due to the fact that Matlhola was only 19 years old when the offence was committed, life imprisonment would be too harsh a sentence to impose on him

TWO MEN were sentenced to life imprisonment, while a third was handed down a 23-year prison sentence, after they were convicted of the brutal murder of 24-year-old Gershwin Swartz.

Swartz was stabbed more than 22 times and hit on the head with a blunt object. His body was left next to the R31 road just outside Kimberley in July 2016.

The three accused, Shaun Carelse, Mamogelo Mcumi and Boitumelo Matlhola, were convicted of the crime after a co-accused, Naledi Kgadiete, turned State witness and conveyed the gruesome details of how the incident unfolded.

Carelse and Mcumi were yesterday sentenced in the Northern Cape High Court to life imprisonment for the murder of Swartz, while Matlhola received a 23-year sentence for his role in the murder. All three men were also sentenced to eight-years imprisonment for kidnapping Swartz, while Carelse and Matlhola received a further 12-years imprisonment for robbery and Mcumi was sentenced to seven years for robbery.

Acting Judge Nomfuneko Mbalo said she had looked at the individual roles and the personal circumstances of the accused.

Mbalo said that due to the fact that Matlhola was only 19 years old when the offence was committed, life imprisonment would be too harsh a sentence to impose on him.

“I am unable to find mitigating factors for accused one (Carelse) and accused two (Mcumi) with regards to the murder charge. I, however, brought a distinction when it comes to accused three (Matlhola). Life imprisonment would be inappropriate for this accused as he has advanced his studies and was subsidised with a bursary, which is an indication that academically he performed well. It is unfortunate that he embarked on his wayward ways which brought him to pay for his actions. With this background, the court felt a sense of unease at imposing a life sentence as he was 19 years old at the time of the committal of the crime,” she said.

Mbalo also imposed a lesser sentence on Mcumi for the robbery charge, stating that he had only joined the group later and did not benefit from the goods that were stolen from the deceased.

“Accused one (Carelse) took full control of the deceased’s belongings. Accused one took the deceased’s car and drove it around, he also used his cellphone and even took his personal documents that were inside the car. Accused one was even so generous to one of the witnesses that he gave them the spare wheel of the deceased’s car. At some stage he interacted in sexual intercourse with a girlfriend inside the vehicle of the deceased.

“Accused three (Matlhola) sold the auxiliary cable at a tavern for alcohol. Accused two (Mcumi) joined at a later stage and did not benefit from the sale of the items like his two co-accused did,” said Mbalo.

She said that the gruesome manner in which Swatz had been killed and his body disposed of, showed that the accused had no regard for his life.

“Gershwin Swartz was robbed of his VW Polo, two cellphones, jackets and his work clock card. The total value of the items stolen amounts to R99 659. The deceased was sleeping inside his car, which was parked at the back of the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court, when he was accosted by the accused, who saw a cellphone inside his car.

“He thought he was safe inside his locked car, which was parked away from the parking at Squeeza’s (nightclub). The deceased felt unable to drive further and acted nobly by not driving any further. In his wisdom, the deceased slept in his car in order not to endanger his life or that of any other person.

“The accused pounced on him purely for their own satisfaction. They threatened the deceased with knives and took ownership of his car. They drove around with him and his kidnapping lasted for about eight hours. While they were driving around, the deceased found himself in the company of strangers who were using drugs. Accused three (Matlhola) was like the deceased’s bodyguard and watched his every move.

“The mother and family of the deceased during this time were worried sick about him when he did not return home. The mother panicked to the point where she reported him missing but was sent away by police due to the 48-hour rule. It was as if she knew something sinister was happening to her son. He was subsequently driven to the R31 where he was murdered.”

Mbalo described the murder as brutal.

“The manner in which the deceased was killed was very brutal. The deceased suffered multiple wounds that were inflicted on him. His front teeth were broken. He suffered a wound to his skull on top of his ear, a wound to his neck, a wound to the midline which penetrated the diaphragm to the liver, a wound which penetrated the kidneys, wounds to the chest and two defensive wounds to his wrist as well as the palms of his hands. The string of injuries and their depths are descriptive of the aggravation of the incident,” said Mbalo.

She added that another aggravating factor was the secluded area where the deceased was killed. “All the accused used a knife, described as a press button, which belonged to accused three (Matlhola), during the incident. This knife is described by the accused as being very sharp, even sharper than an okapi. The spot where the deceased was killed, shows that the accused did not consider any dignity or respect for the deceased. The deceased got reduced to rubbish and rubble when his body was left at the dumping spot. The accused, after the incident, carried on with their daily activities as if nothing had happened.”

Mbalo said that there was nothing in the personal circumstances of the accused that would make the court deviate from imposing a harsh sentence.

She added that the argument by the defence that all the accused were under the influence of drugs and alcohol on the day, was not a mitigating factor. She said that the only mitigating factor she found was the more than three years the accused spent in custody awaiting the finalisation of their case.

She added that although Kgadiete, who turned State witness, was painted as a liar who wanted to portray the other three accused as bad men, Kgadiete’s testimony on the sequence of events that transpired had shed light on the matter.

“The accused pleaded not guilty right to the end. Kgadiete played open cards with the court and entered a plea bargain with the State. He gave a detailed explanation about the sequence of events. He also did not water down his own role and involvement in the crime.

“He even went the extra mile by directly apologising to the family of the deceased. If it was not for the evidence of Kgadiete, it is highly probable that the evidence before court would not be as clear.”

All three accused indicated that they would appeal their sentences.