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Life and no appeal

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The killings of farmers and farmworkers in this country is deplorable and also affects food production negatively

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A CONVICTED farm murderer, who “severed the hand that was feeding him” has been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Northern Cape High Court.

He has also been denied leave to appeal his sentence.

The 31-year-old Hendrick Dawson was convicted of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances in November last year and sentenced by Judge Mpho Mamosebo to 15 years imprisonment on the charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances and life imprisonment for the charge of murder.

The incident happened in November 2017 in Kakamas.

According to a police report at the time, 64-year-old Jan Hough, a pensioner, never returned home to his wife after he went to pick up a worker.

Police spokesman Francois Steenkamp said the worker was confronted after he was later seen driving around in Hough’s car. He jumped out of the vehicle and fled.

“It was then noticed that the suspect had some red stains on his shirt that looked like blood. The incident was reported to the police,” Steenkamp said.

“With the help of the community and various police units a search was launched for the missing Hough. His body was eventually found in an open veld near Spieelkop, Kakamas.”

The deceased had a stab wound to his body.

During the trial, Dawson, tendered a plea of not guilty on both counts. In his plea explanation, in respect of the murder, he admitted stabbing the deceased on the day of the incident but pleaded self-defence. He claimed that he was attacked by the deceased and a Willem Bruwer (also referred to as “Willie”).

In respect of the robbery he denied robbing the deceased of his Isuzu bakkie and maintained that he was instructed by Bruwer to drive it to a certain vineyard.

He was found guilty on both charges.

During the sentencing last week, Judge Mamosebo pointed out that Dawson had four previous convictions, three of which involved dishonesty.

“The element of dishonesty is shown by the fact that when applying for bail he only made reference to a new born baby that necessitated him being released on bail for purposes of the wellness of the child, whereas in the trial reference was also made to a three-year-old daughter. The three-year-old stays permanently with its mother and is well taken care of financially.”

Judge Mamosebo further pointed out that at the time of his conviction, Dawson was not gainfully employed because he had been incarcerated for a period of 14 months.

Among the aggravating factors considered by the court was that the crimes were planned and premeditated, they were committed in a secluded area where the accused had led the deceased and that the accused had occupied a position of trust in an employer-employee relationship and had abused that trust. “The killing of famers and farmworkers in this country is deplorable and also affects food production negatively.”

Judge Mamosebo pointed out that the deceased had been fatally stabbed and a bakkie belonging to him was taken through violent means.

“The accused’s claims of self-defence for the murder and that he was instructed to drive the bakkie to a particular point by the state witness are untrue. The accused had severed the hand that was feeding him.”

She added that the Victim Impact Report, compiled by a social worker, “reflects a sad account of the devastation suffered by the deceased’s widow, Catharina Hough, and her two daughters, Gerna Hough and Sonja Hough”.

“The victims are severely traumatised and struggle to adjust emotionally. The victim’s wife, who suffers from severe depression and post-traumatic stress, was admitted to a psychiatric institution following the loss of her husband. Even though she did not personally witness the crime, she is reported to still be reliving the episode a year later.”

Judge Mamosebo said she found no substantial and compelling circumstances entitling the court from deviating from the prescribed minimum sentences.

“The area of the body that was stabbed also shows that the accused intended for the deceased to die. The murder was gruesome and aimed at an unsuspecting and unarmed victim. The accused had clearly planned the perpetration of these offences and even chose the secluded area where he knew he would not be disturbed. He left the deceased to die in the veld.”

Judge Mamosebo added that the conduct of the accused was with a flagrant disregard for the sanctity of human life, while he also did not show any remorse during the trial.

“This is no ordinary murder. It involves a farm worker who, after being fetched by his employer, the deceased, from home to work at his residence, directed the deceased to a secluded area where he, among the many lacerations, abrasions and bruises all over the deceased’s body, inflicted incised wounds on the chest which penetrated the deceased’s heart. He thereafter took his bakkie and drove it around town until suspecting witnesses intervened.”

An application by Dawson to appeal the conviction and sentence was denied by Judge Mamosebo, who pointed out that the accused failed to testify in the main trial and did not call any witnesses to support his version.

“The state witnesses were not discredited and the state evidence was overwhelming against the accused on both counts and remain uncontroverted.”

Regarding appeal against the sentence, she said the seriousness of the crimes, coupled with the interests of society, were weighty justifications that necessitated the sentence imposed.