‘Houdini’ under lock and key

2014-06-21 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL “career criminal” Sthembiso Shabalala (36) was sentenced to life imprisonment plus jail terms totalling 59 years by Judge Nompumelelo Radebe yesterday.

Branded a serial escaper by police, Shabalala earned his nickname “Houdini” over his numerous escapes or attempted escapes from custody. Recently he tried twice in a couple of hours to break free from the ­Ixopo court.

Yesterday, police took no chances. Heavily armed task force members wearing bullet-proof vests stood on either side of the dock, while others lined the benches and walls.

The father of one of Shabalala’s victims, Rob Anderson (39), who was shot dead and robbed of his Isuzu bakkie when he stopped to open the gate of the smallholding he was renting at Richmond on August 7, 2012, said in his opinion Shabalala deserved the death penalty.

Malcolm Anderson said his son was left to die where he fell.

He was shot at about 5 pm and Malcolm found his body the next day at midday when he went in search of his son because he hadn’t turned up for an important business meeting.

“He never even took my son’s wallet or cellphone. Just the vehicle, which we recovered three days later, and my son’s life.”

He said every time Shabalala escaped, he and his family feared for their own lives.

Anderson said Rob wasn’t married. He leaves a brother, Angus, and his mother Carol.

His son was in the process of taking over a sawmill business from him in Richmond when he was killed.

After his murder, the sawmill closed down, costing 40 people their jobs.

Two of the charges of which Shabalala was convicted were for illegal possession of a firearm and six rounds of ammunition — the weapon was used to kill Anderson.

The gun was recovered by police when they arrested Shabalala at Phoenix on August 17, 2012, when he fought with his girlfriend, Thobeka Angeline Ngubane, bit and hit her and pointed the gun at her.

Other crimes for which Shabalala was jailed were for the robbery of a Toyota Hilux from Raj­singh Ramdalal at Umzinto on November 23, 2009; theft of a Toyota Corolla belonging to Yastheel Baijnath at Merebank on May 29, 2010, robbery with aggravating circumstances of Ramee and Vanitha Dhaja who were held up at gunpoint as they returned home to their flat at Umzinto, accompanied by their 12-year-old child, on July 2, 2012, and escaping from the Donnybrook police cells on March 7, 2012.

The judge agreed with state advocate Attie Truter’s submissions that Shabalala is a danger to society who progressed from being a “simple thief to a killer”.

An application by Shabalala’s advocate, Di Franklin, for leave to appeal his convictions and sentences was turned down.

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