Phutanang man sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of two charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and one charge of arson after he set his house alight while his wife and children were inside.
A 48-YEAR-old Phutanang father, Daniel Dipheko, was sentenced to life imprisonment for ‘setting his family alight’ by the Northern Cape High Court on Monday.
Dipheko was convicted on two charges of murder, three charges of attempted murder and one charge of arson after he set his house in Promised Land, Phutanang alight while his wife and children were inside in December 2018.
Northern Cape High Court Judge Pule Tlaletsi handed down two life sentences for the murder of Dipheko’s wife, Abigail Mogadile, and the couple’s son 16-year-old son, Tshepo Mogadile.
Judge Tlaletsi also sentenced Dipheko to 30 years’ imprisonment for the attempted murder of the couple’s three other minor children and five years’ imprisonment for arson.
All the sentences will run concurrently.
The court heard that Dipheko, in a jealous rage, poured petrol around the perimeter of the family’s home and doused his wife in petrol before starting the fire, after accusing her of infidelity.
Young Tshepo heroically managed to help his siblings to safety and was reported to be the last person to leave the burning house, where he desperately tried to rescue his mother but was overwhelmed by the flames.
Abigail and Tshepo died in hospital a few days after the incident after succumbing to smoke inhalation and sustaining severe burn wounds.
The couple’s three minor children were treated for burn wounds.
Judge Tlaletsi observed that Dipheko failed to show any remorse for his actions. “He did not testify during the trial or during sentencing procedures. There are no substantial or compelling circumstances to deviate from the minimum prescribed sentence.”
He found the defence’s argument that Dipheko had committed a crime of passion, unconvincing. “His regret for what he witnessed and the reality of the consequences cannot be mistaken for remorse.”
Judge Tlaletsi added that even though Dipheko “saved” his youngest child when he took her out of the house, he had left his other children trapped inside the burning house.
“His actions may be seen as him wielding his masculinity and power over his helpless partner.
“He interrogated his family and posed moral questions to the children against their mother, something no self-respecting parent would ever do.”
Judge Tlaletsi noted that while the couple were not formally married, they lived together as husband and wife with their four minor children.
He stated that murder was premediated. “The accused had time to plan the offences and the fact that he travelled from Beaconsfield with the petrol to his home is evidence of the evil intentions that he harboured for some time.“
Judge Tlaletsi indicated that at the time of the incident, Abigail looked on helplessly and was unable to rescue her children.
“As evidence revealed she gave parting instructions to her children where they should go as she felt as if she was not going to make it.
“If the accused complained about the minor burn wounds that he sustained from the fire, where he required medical treatment, his young children suffered much more.
“Such young children were subjected to excruciating pain because of the accused’s selfish and egocentric interests.”
Judge Tlaletsi believed that Dipheko was a self-centred parent and a poor role-model.
“He treated his children as if they were his property and exposed them to family violence. Instead of being an example, he used drugs and instructed the children to look for his drugs.”
He added that the couple’s eldest daughter, Lerato Mogadile, 27, following the death of her mother, was obligated to look after her three younger siblings.
“She has three children of her own. This means that, at the tender age of 27 years, she is a single mother of six children who is unemployed and depends on social grants to provide for her children.”
Judge Tlaletsi said that Lerato had recently started leasing her house in order to supplement the income she received from the child grants.
“She had to renovate, at her own cost, her house in order to make it more habitable. It came to light that the accused owns property that he leases but he is not willing to let his children benefit from the rentals.
“He instructed his tenant to ensure that the money reached him in prison. This is the conduct of a man who selfishly looks after his own interests and does not look after his children that have been turned into orphans.”
Judge Tlaletsi pointed out that, according to Lerato’s testimony, the children had been badly affected by the death of their mother.
“The nine-year-old spends sleepless nights tossing and turning and has become the laughing stock at school and has a short concentration span. She is unable to wear short clothes as she has scars as a result of the burn wounds. She has turned into a cheeky and rebellious child and makes unwarranted mistakes.
“The 15-year-old teenager is a problem child as her mother is not there to guide her. She apparently smokes cannabis and even sells drugs at school. She roams around at night and screams in her sleep.”
He said that the youngest child, who was five years old, had stopped attending pre-school.
“Lerato testified that the children are also missing Tshepo, who they loved very much. He was a jolly person who kept them entertained with jokes.
“She is also disappointed in her father, who to date has not taken her into his confidence to explain what spurred him to commit these heinous actions.”
Judge Tlaletsi added that through the intervention of a social worker there had been some improvement in the children’s behaviour.
He noted that the time that Dipheko spent incarcerated during the trial was not a mitigating factor.
“The accused was considered a flight risk and his arrest was not due to his co-operation. Society has a justifiable concern about domestic violence and the court must play its part in fighting the scourge against gender-based violence involving women and children. Failure to do so would result in vigilantism and mob justice.”
He highlighted the fact that the family members were harmed in the sanctuary of their own home by someone who they looked up to.
“Premeditated murder is more reprehensible as the consequences are final. Murder amounts to capital punishment on the victim that is irreversible. Even the State does not have the authority to impose the death sentence. A life cannot be restored by any type of sentence. The deceased died a horrifying and painful death. They suffered severe pain and were trapped inside the house, until they succumbed to their injuries.”
Tlaletsi pointed out that Dipheko had a string of previous convictions, including for assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, theft and contravention of the Liquor Act.
“The convictions are older than 10 years ago and will not be taken into account for the purposes of this case.”