Homicide conviction for jogger deaths

2013-11-27 16:49

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Pretoria - Mechanical engineer Sibusiso Langa was convicted of culpable homicide on Wednesday for running over a group of joggers in Midrand two years ago, killing five of them.

The North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria found the State had not proved that Langa, 46, was guilty of murder and attempted murder, but proved that he had been grossly negligent.

Judge Bert Bam found Langa guilty on five counts of culpable homicide and one of drunk driving, but acquitted him on a charge of attempting to murder the only survivor of the accident, Abegail Stengile.

Bam rejected Langa's claim that the accident had taken place on his side of the road and that the joggers had run into the path of his Mercedes-Benz ML500 on Lever Road, Midrand, on 22 October 2011.

He rejected Langa's claim that he only had two light beers while socialising with friends until the early morning hours at a restaurant before the accident.

Driving 113km/h in a 60km/h zone

Bam said the eyewitness, surviving victim, and all of the circumstantial evidence proved the accident happened while Langa was driving on the wrong side of the road.

He accepted an accident reconstruction expert's evidence that Langa only started braking after hitting the joggers and that he was driving more than 113km/h in a 60km/h zone at the time.

Although there was no evidence about Langa's blood alcohol content, the court accepted the evidence of an eyewitness and experienced metro police officers that he had been under the influence of alcohol at the time.

Reneilwe Lesenyeho, 31, Gaolojwe Tlale, 37, Margaret Mokoatsi, 35, Given Mills, 30, and Nomvula Dumako, 35, were killed and Stengile was seriously injured in the accident.

Bam found Langa had foreseen that he could hit pedestrians, but said the State had not proved that he had reconciled himself with the death of the pedestrians, or that he intended to kill them.

"The accused is a normal, intelligent man. He's a mechanical engineer and an experienced driver. He was under the influence of alcohol, but there was no suggestion that he did not know what he was doing...

‘He was grossly negligent’

He resided in the area and was familiar with the road.

"In my view, common sense dictated that the accused subjectively foresaw that in driving a powerful SUV whilst under the influence, and at a high speed, knowing pedestrians used the road, he may possibly collide with pedestrians with fatal consequences... There is no evidence that the accused had reconciled himself with any possible fatal consequences.

"The consequences were disastrous. He was so grossly negligent that it amounted to reckless driving," Bam said.

Langa, in his evidence in mitigation, still insisted the joggers were to blame for the accident.

Injured woman upset

"As far as I know I still maintain the accident happened on my side [of the road]... It's difficult for me to say something I did not see.

"Maybe as time goes on they (the families of the joggers killed) will find the time to hear my side of the story," he said.

Stengile said she was disappointed and upset about Langa's acquittal on the charge of attempting to murder her.

"It's like nothing ever happened," she said.

The trial was postponed to 4 December for the evidence of a psychologist.

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