SA man jailed in UK for child’s murder

2011-11-16 06:56

A South African man has been jailed for life in the United Kingdom for murdering a six-year-old girl by setting fire to her family’s home, the London-based Independent newspaper reported today.

A judge said George Sithole (41) would serve a minimum of 17 years behind bars for killing Dumo Sibanda.

Sithole started the blaze which killed Dumo because he was upset about the end of his relationship with a friend of her family.

He had accused Siphenphile Mercy Mlalazi, known as Mercy, of cheating on him and had bombarded her with calls and SMSes, the newspaper reported.

Armed with petrol and matches, Sithole went to the semi-detached house in West Sussex where Mlalazi was staying with Dumo’s family on October 26, 2004. Minutes later, flames engulfed the house.

Mlalazi and her friend Donald Sibanda jumped out of their separate bedroom windows. Sibanda’s daughter Dumo died despite paramedics’ efforts to resuscitate her.

Sithole denied starting the fire, but jurors convicted him of murder after more than two hours of deliberation at Lewes Crown Court.

Sentencing him, Judge Richard Brown described Sithole’s account of events as “appalling nonsense” and he paid tribute to Dumo’s family for their dignity throughout the trial.

The judge told Sithole: “I don’t think I have ever heard such a pathetic attempt by a defendant to lie their way out of responsibility.

“Your wicked, jealous and criminal behaviour in 2004 cost little Dumo her life and has destroyed the lives of her parents and her family.”

Sithole had claimed he was seen at the scene of the blaze because he had lost the key to his flat and wanted to retrieve a spare key from Mlalazi.

A paramedic who saw him there said he seemed “unaffected by what was happening”. Another thought he had looked “dumbstruck and wide-eyed”, but that he had not shown any emotion.

Sithole fled to South Africa, but was found and extradited seven years later on March 16.

After sentencing, Dumo’s parents reportedly thanked the Sussex Police and the SA Police Service for following the matter to its conclusion and “obtaining a measure of justice for Dumo”.

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