In The News South Africa

Sentencing postponed in case of ritual killers who beheaded sex worker

DURBAN, July 28 – Sentencing in the case of four people convicted for their roles in the murder of sex worker Desiree Murugan, who was stabbed 192 times and then beheaded while still alive, was postponed in the Durban High Court on Friday.

Thuso Thelejala, Mlungisi Ndlovu and Mbali Magwala were all minors at the time of the crime in 2014. In January, they were found guilty along with sangoma Sibonakaliso Mbili.

The then-minors were co-opted by Falakhe Khumalo, who had been asked to supply the head of a white, Indian or coloured woman to Mbili in exchange for R2 million. Khumalo pleaded guilty to the crime in August 2014, and was sentenced to life in prison and turned State witness.

All four watched without emotion on Friday, as Magwala’s advocate argued in mitigation of sentence. Family members of the four and those of Murugan were also present, sitting on opposite sides of the room.

A visibly anxious Magwala, 18, was already in the dock when journalists, family members and lawyers entered the courtroom.

Judge Thoba Poyo-Dlwati heard advocate Rema Mahabeer rip into the sentencing report by probation officer Mahashni Naidoo.

Mahabeer said Naidoo’s report was inconsistent with what the court had been told by her client and that Naidoo had passed judgment on Magwala because of bias.

Naidoo’s report found that Magwala had displayed no remorse for her part in planning and covering up the murder and that she was motivated by money and fear.

“She wanted to lead a lifestyle with no restrictions,” according to Naidoo’s report, which also stated that “the punishment must fit the crime”.

Mahabeer said Magwala had not once mentioned money as a motivating factor. Magwala had acted under duress, she argued.

Naidoo agreed with Mahabeer that Magwala was not present at the Chatsworth murder scene, was not part of the sexual assault, stabbing or beheading, and had played no role in transporting the severed head from the crime scene to Mbili’s homestead near Umkomaas.

Magwala’s part in the crime consisted of washing Murugan’s severed head in a bucket, according to Mahabeer, which she did under duress.

Naidoo said that Poyo-Dlwati had found that Magwala was part and parcel of the planning of the crime and she would adhere to the court’s findings.

The court also heard how Naidoo had allegedly not taken into account Magwala being a single mother who needed to be in contact with her child when considering sentencing. Magwala had seen her child only twice over a three-year period, according to Mahabeer, and one of those times was at court during a recess.

After more cross-examination, Poyo-Dlwati asked that a psychological report be submitted on Magwala.

The case was adjourned to October.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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