Black widow Thandi Maqubela guilty, co-accused acquitted

2013-11-07 17:35

The Western Cape High Court has found Thandi Maqubela guilty of murdering her husband, acting judge Patrick Maqubela.

Her co-accused, Vela Mabena, was acquitted on the basis that the state had not proved his involvement beyond reasonable doubt.

“Accused number one [Thandi Maqubela] is found guilty and accused number two is found not guilty,” said Judge John Murphy.

He said the acquittal was based on a finding of “not proven”, rather than of “factual innocence”.

Mabena left the dock and Maqubela stood alone as a swarm of photographers jostled for a position around her.

She handed a large, black leather bag and a pink file to her daughter and then hugged her.

A policewoman gestured to her to put her hands behind her back. She smiled and complied before being led down to the cells.

The court found that Patrick Maqubela’s serial adultery brought the couple’s relationship to an explosive point in 2009.

He was in a distressed state, and confided to others the day before he was killed, on June 4 2009, that he wished to divorce his wife.

“Accused one was in a vengeful and destructive mode,” said Murphy.

“She had appointed private investigators to investigate his private life, had threateningly confronted his lovers, and had disgraced him in the eyes of his friends, relatives and colleagues.”

Justice Minister Jeff Radebe saw her hours before the death and described her as angry and excitable.

Murphy said Thandi Maqubela’s propensity to become excitable when challenged was demonstrated more than once during her testimony.

The court could not make a finding on how the acting judge had died.

“At best, there exists a mere possibility that the deceased was suffocated after being subdued or restrained by undetectable means, chemical or physical, but even here we are in danger of drifting into the realm of speculation,” Murphy said.

However, proof of the exact means of death was not a prerequisite for conviction.

Murphy said death from natural causes or suicide was excluded primarily by Thandi Maqubela’s conduct, a plethora of lies and her persistence in “irrational subterfuge” which was wholly incompatible with an innocent person.

He also found her guilty of forging her husband’s will, and of committing fraud by causing potential prejudice to his estate.

It was unlikely Patrick Maqubela would have left almost his entire estate to his wife, and disinherited some of his children, when considering the state of his marriage.

“The inescapable conclusion is that Exhibit D [the alleged will] was not drafted by a lawyer,” Murphy said.

“It is even more unlikely that a professional attorney of many years standing, with extensive experience in commercial law, employed at a reputable firm of attorneys in Johannesburg, and serving as an acting judge at the time, would have drafted such a will or put his signature to it.”

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