Michael Pieterson was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend and their 11-month-old child before burning and concealing their bodies.
MURDER accused Michael Pieterson, 36, was found guilty in the Northern Cape High Court on Monday, September 21, of murdering his ex-girlfriend and their 11-month-old baby, before burning and concealing their bodies in the veld near Windsorton.
Acting Northern Cape High Court Judge Willem Coetzee found Pieterson guilty on two charges of murder as well as defeating the ends of justice.
He said that he believed that the accused was guilty of a “heinous and horrible” crime.
The bodies of the deceased Kantsi Mokgele and the couple’s 11-month-old child Neo Elias Mokgele were burnt beyond recognition and were found by a passerby, hidden under trees and foliage in the veld on May 12 last year.
According to the state, numerous witnesses came forward immediately following the incident to report that the accused had threatened to kill and burn the deceased.
Investigations determined that Kantse had experienced a history of physical abuse, prior to her death.
The post-mortem results indicated that the cause of death was as a result of a head injury and smoke inhalation.
The baby sustained a stab wound to the face.
Items of evidence found inside Pieterson’s shanty include wet clothes, with suspected blood, inside his shanty along with an All Star takkie that they discovered on the roof of his home in Hebron Park.
The floor of Pieterson’s shanty was wet and muddy when the police arrived at his home.
DNA evidence of the deceased was also found on one of Pieterson’s T-shirts.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Legal representative for the accused, Heinrich Steynberg, believed that the charges amounted to a duplication of the convictions.
“Kantse died of injuries and smoke inhalation where the accused cannot be convicted for defeating the ends of justice,” he said.
“In both incidents, he had a single intent to make a fire where the child was already dead at that particular stage. The deceased were together when the fire occurred.”
He added that the state’s case relied on circumstantial evidence.
“While the crimes are serious where the deceased were killed in a brutal and callous manner. They were in a trust relationship where they were defenceless. The accused was supposed to protect them instead of taking their lives.”
He believed that the accused was capable of being rehabilitated.
“While in custody (he) tried to develop himself by finishing his matric, became skilled in boiler making, woodwork, computer practice and completed an anger management course. This is a step in the right direction.
“He worked upon his release on parole to support his children. Life imprisonment does not leave any room for rehabilitation as he will spend the rest of his life in custody.”
Steynberg added that as he was already serving another sentence, the accused was automatically deemed unfit to own a firearm.
State advocate Ronewa Makhaga pointed out that the accused had inflicted “gruesome” injuries on the deceased.
“He murdered Kantse and their child and thereafter burnt and concealed their bodies. It cannot be said that a life imprisonment sentence is disproportionate to the brutal and cruel murders. Kantse was stabbed several times in the face, body and stomach. She was burnt alive,” Makhaga said.
“Their 11-month-old son Elias was stabbed to death and sustained head injuries. How gruesome must a murder be to justify a life sentence?”
Makhaga added that the accused had previous convictions where he was on parole when the murders were committed.
“The accused was released on parole in 2016 after serving 10 years of his 20-year sentence where he was convicted for murder, housebreaking with intent to rape and attempted rape in November 2006. His sentence was supposed to run up until May 2026.
“He was also convicted for housebreaking with intent to steal and theft in February 2004 where his three-month imprisonment was suspended for three years.”
He indicated that despite being given a second chance when he was released on bail, he returned to society to commit more serious crimes.
“Three years after being released on parole, he killed two more victims in a more violent manner. It cannot be business as usual, especially since no exceptional circumstances were presented to the court.”
Acting Northern Cape High Court Judge Willem Coetzee pointed out that the accused was one of the last persons to see the deceased.
“In his plea explanation, the accused stated that he and Mokgele were in a love relationship. They lived together from 2017 until 2019 when she left the common home although (they were) in regular contact with each other. During this time Elias Mokgele was conceived and born.”
Coetzee added that it was common cause that Pieterson was one of the last people who saw the deceased.
“There were previous threats of violence uttered by the accused against the deceased. In my view, the crucial evidence that points to the guilt of the accused is the DNA that was found on his T-shirt on his property inside his shack. The defence argued that the presence of DNA on his clothes does not necessarily mean that he killed her.
“However the accused did not give an explanation of how it got there. The accused admitted to the presence of DNA on his shirt but stated that the source was skin and not blood. This is not a sustainable explanation on how skin cells were deposited there.”
He indicated that while the defence had advised that little value should be attached to the DNA findings as the police laboratory in Pretoria where the testing was done was not accredited by the South African National Accredited System (Sanas), Coetzee did not dispute the forensic findings.
“Even if the SAPS Forensic Science Laboratory is not accredited, it bears no weight on the quality of the analysis but points more to budgetary constraints. The state pointed out that to date, no court has rejected the evidence based on the lack of accreditation.”
The case continues on Tuesday.