Couple’s killers get 45 years, not life

2010-08-03 00:00

TWO men were handed jail sentences totalling 45 years each in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday arising from the “gruesome” murders and robbery of newly married Merrivale couple Martha and Allan O’Neale on June 15 last year.

Acting Judge Z.P. Nkosi found there were compelling and substantial circumstances in favour of the accused — Boy-Boy Alfred Ntuli (24) and Bhekumndeni Andrias Mkhize (25) — which would justify the court imposing less than the prescribed minimum of life imprisonment for the murders, as well as robbery with aggravating circumstances.

He also imposed different sentences on each of the accused, depending on the roles they played in the various crimes, but the effective sentence for each was the same.

The mitigating factors, which “tipped the scales from life imprisonment to a long term of imprisonment” were that the two men: were first offenders, co-operated with the police following their arrests in pointing out the scenes of crime to investigators; handed over exhibits; and each made admissions about the role they played.

The judge said the fact that the accused had shown willingness to take some responsibility for their actions augurs well for their future rehabilitation.

However, he termed the murders and the burning of the couple’s bodies “diabolical” and “heinous” crimes.

He said the court accepted that the murders were not premeditated.

He found it was probable that the couple were killed because Ntuli was known to them as he stayed and worked on their property at weekends.

The evidence was based largely on the admissions made by Ntuli and Mkhize to the police as well as the postmortem findings.

It revealed that the couple were strangled and/or had their necks broken and that their bodies were loaded into their two vehicles, driven to a plantation, covered with wood and a blanket and set alight.

Nkosi said the O’Neales were oblivious to the trap the two men had set for them in their home and walked into it with disastrous consequences.

He said there was no need to kill the couple in order to rob them, and the murders and burning of the bodies were “senseless”.

The judge said the fact that both men were gainfully employed and earned “respectable” salaries showed they acted out of greed.

In addition, he said, Ntuli was in a position of trust as he shared the property with the O’Neales.

“Little did they know that they would die through his hands of evil,” he said.

Nkosi granted the accused leave to appeal against their sentences.

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