Three get life for murder in Pelham bottle store robbery

2010-07-16 00:00

THREE men — including the gunman who fired a shot into the head of talented commerce student Idannis “Johnny” Canos (19), killing him in front of his parents at a Pelham bottle store during a brazen daylight robbery on June 22, 2006 — were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder yesterday.

The attackers got R150 cash each when they shared their loot.

The trio, Vusimusi Ngcobo (31), Sifiso Thusi (29) and Zenzele Mkhize (26) — all of the Durban area — were sentenced to a further 15 years’ imprisonment for robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Ngcobo and Mkhize also received additional sentences of five years’ imprisonment each for unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

A fourth accused — Ntokozo Zondi of Imbali, who was acquitted of murder but found guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances — was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Acting High Court Judge Nompumelelo Radebe ordered that Zondi must serve two-thirds of his sentence before he can qualify for release on parole.

State advocate Candy Kander told the court Canos’s parents were so traumatised after witnessing their son’s murder that they were still unable to testify in court four years later. His mother is still undergoing trauma counselling.

She said the Greek family invested in the economy of this country and created employment, but as a result of the murder and robbery decided to give up their business. It is offences of this nature that put off foreign investors, she added.

Kander said Canos was young and talented. He was studying to become a chartered accountant, averaging marks of 98% in his commerce degree.

He was the younger of the Canos family’s two sons.

Kander said all the accused are well educated, and all, except Zondi, were employed at the time. This demonstrated that the crimes were committed out of greed.

The accused showed no remorse at all and continued to deny their guilt in the face of overwhelming evidence.

The state’s evidence was that Vusimusi Ngcobo was the gunman who shot Canos. Afterwards he and the other assailants simply took no notice of the bleeding body and went on as if it was “business as usual”. They robbed the safe before fleeing back to their kombi and then drank at a tavern as if nothing had happened, said Kander.

Acting Judge Radebe said she could find no compelling or substantial circumstances to warrant the court imposing less than the prescribed minimum sentences.

She said the offence was an extremely serious one and had been well planned. A vehicle was even hired to bring the robbers from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. When the robbers discovered that their initial target (a hardware store at Southgate centre) was unsuitable, they targeted the Pelham bottle store.

Radebe said Canos was killed in a “cruel and inhumane”manner in front of his parents at his father’s place of business.

“He had not attacked anybody. Besides his parents, there were also employees present. Even the security guard was powerless.

“Society needs to be protected from such offenders,” she said.

THE Canos family are currently in Greece where they spend five months every year remembering their son and spending time at his grave, close friends of the family told The Witness yesterday.

The couple, who do not want to be named, said Johnny Canos’s mother — Postira Canos — has not got over the tragedy and to this day wears black clothing daily in mourning for her son.

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