Man jailed for killing a Pretoria scientist

By Drum Digital
22 May 2012

One of the men who murdered a retired scientist in his Garsfontein home five years ago was sentenced to 38 years' imprisonment by the High Court in Pretoria on Tuesday.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius ordered that 38-year-old car guard Abel Magopa of Dennilton serve in effect 25 years of the sentence.

Magopa was convicted last week of murdering 61-year-old professor Bill van der Riet and robbing him of a suitcase, clothes, coins and a DVD player at his Garsfontein home in Pretoria in 2007.

A member of the Community Policing Forum found Van der Riet's body after his gardener raised the alarm when he could not gain access to the property.

Van der Riet was found tied up and half-naked with a dishcloth wrapped around his neck.

Magopa's index fingerprint was found on a newspaper advertisement and his palm print on a pamphlet next to the body in the locked house.

The suitcase was found outside in a flower bed near the entrance gate.

Magopa admitted that his fingerprints were found on the newspaper in the house, but claimed clients at the shopping centre where he worked had often given him their newspapers to read while they went inside to shop.

Pretorius said the fact that Magopa had spent four-and-a-half years in jail while waiting for his trial to start justified a deviation from the prescribed life sentence for the murder.

An awaiting trial prisoner could not take part in any programmes or complete any certificates, but languished in prison waiting for their day in court, she said.

She said it was clear that the robbery had been planned, but she could not find that Magopa had acted alone or that the murder had been premeditated.

"House robberies and murders are a scourge in our society, where people are not safe in their own homes.

"The way in which the deceased was left shows complete contempt," she said.

Pretorius said Magopa should be left with a hope of becoming a useful citizen, but that he would spend the best years of his life in custody and would be released only as an elderly man.

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