Life for 100-year-old’s killer

2008-06-09 00:00

The killer of popular Richmond centenarian, Herbert James “Bob” Downs, was jailed for life plus 10 years’ imprisonment yesterday for his murder and related charges.

Downs was stabbed to death in his home less than six months after celebrating his 100th birthday on September 25, 2006.

Sibusiso Mbuje Dlamini (29) pleaded guilty before Judge Jan Hugo, admitting that he stabbed Downs on March 1, 2007, but said he had not expected anyone to be in the house.

He said he was “shocked” when he saw Downs in the bedroom while he was trying to open a wardrobe with a knife.

He admitted to having earlier taken a television set outside. He then returned and was disturbed by Downs.

Judge Hugo said mitigating factors in the case, including the fact that Dlamini pleaded guilty and co-operated with police, did not constitute exceptional circumstances warranting less than the minimum prescribed life imprisonment for the murder.

He later also refused the killer leave to appeal against the sentence.

In particular, he had regard to the fact that Downs was 100 years old and that Dlamini stabbed him six times.

He said Dlamini was comparatively young and healthy and could easily have overcome any resistance by Downs. “It was certainly not necessary to stab him at all, let alone six times,” the judge said.

Judge Hugo said he sympathised with Dlamini in the sense that he was unemployed and must have been frustrated in his efforts to find employment. “But that does not justify the offences he committed,” he said.

In his plea, Dlamini said he went to Richmond from his home in Msinga to seek employment as he had heard that jobs were available at a Mondi forest there. However, he did not find a job.

During a drinking session on March 1, 2007, a certain Rasta Mbhele suggested the idea of breaking into Downs’s house.

Mbhele pointed out the house, but only Dlamini entered, after breaking a window.

After putting the television outside, he went back to open a wardrobe with a kitchen knife.

“I heard some movements behind me and when I turned back — although it was dark — I noticed there was a person in that house and it was a white person. I was very shocked, as I was under the impression there was nobody there, as Rasta [Mbhele] had told me so.

“I was scared … I then decided to stab that person several times on his chest area and he fell down. While he was still down, I could feel he was still breathing. At that stage I felt sorry for injuring the deceased. I then decided to put him on the bed.”

Dlamini said he left the house, took the television set and sold it at Richmond taxi rank for R150 the next day. He was arrested on that same day.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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