Moodley shows no emotion as verdict read
Johannesburg – Convicted murderer Donovan Moodley showed no emotion or surprise as the judge read his verdict denying a retrial of Leigh Matthews’ murder case.
"The applicant's version was far-fetched and fanciful," the judge said, denying Moodley's application in the South Gauteng High Court for his conviction to be set aside, or for a retrial.
"He also cannot explain why he burned the clothes he was wearing."
This implied he wanted to destroy the evidence, Labuschagne said.
"I am satisfied that the applicant's version cannot be true. He is a self-confessed liar."
Labuschagne dismissed Moodley's claims about the drug dealers he claimed were responsible for the crime. His story was "riddled with improbabilities".
"For more than five years he confirmed his confession. How can anyone believe that an intelligent, innocent man can plead guilty?"
Moodley showed no emotion or surprise as Labuschagne read his verdict.
Moodley filed his application nearly six years after the sentence was passed. The deadline for such applications is usually 14 days after sentencing.
This was an important aspect as "certainty and finality" were needed in the criminal justice system, Labuschagne said.
In 2005, Moodley was found guilty of the murder and kidnapping of university student Leigh Matthews, 21, and of extorting money from her father.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for kidnapping, and 10 years for extortion. He has been in prison ever since.
Matthews was kidnapped from the parking lot of Johannesburg's Bond University on Friday July 9 2004.
Her father received a call from her cellphone, in which he was told to meet the kidnappers and pay a ransom. He delivered R50 000 to the kidnapper, but his daughter was not handed over.
On Wednesday, July 21 2004 Matthews' body was found by a grass cutter in the veld in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg.
Frightened into kidnapping
Although it was never forensically proven, there were indications her body had been kept in cold storage.
Moodley began his application for a retrial last Wednesday, choosing to represent himself. His argument rested on his claim that three Nigerian drug dealers, Frank, Allie and Jemba, orchestrated the kidnapping and murder.
The three had frightened Moodley into agreeing to kidnap another student named as Gasper, but had decided to kidnap someone else instead when Gasper did not appear. This was when Matthews was kidnapped, Moodley said.
Moodley said the drug dealers took his gun and left it in the back of his car with some of Leigh's clothes after the murder. In panic, Moodley burnt the clothes, as well as those he wore on the night of the kidnapping, he said.
He said he had not put forward this "version of the truth" before because police forced him to say he had committed the crime alone and because he was afraid the drug dealers would target his family.
Moodley claimed former investigating officer Piet Byleveld had manipulated evidence and forced a confession to frame him.
Labuschagne rebuked Moodley for attempting to discredit Byleveld and prosecutor Zaais van Zyl.
Disrespectful and cruel
If Moodley's claims were true, "why do we only hear about [this alleged] police brutality six years after the event?"
Under oath Moodley had told the court he made the confession of his own free will, a point Van Zyl raised in court last Thursday. Labuschagne said Van Zyl was highly respected and experienced.
"In my view [Moodley's affidavit] was a desperate attempt not to reveal the truth but to run away from it."
Moodley also claimed that Leigh's father Rob had changed his description of the kidnapper to match his profile. Labuschagne took exception to this, saying: "This allegation, in my view, is disrespectful and cruel, to say the least."
He said it was common procedure for witnesses to make more than one statement and to expand descriptions of suspects.
Haunted by questions
Outside the court, Byleveld dismissed Moodley's allegations of a conspiracy against him, but said he was certain Matthews died shortly after she was kidnapped.
"But we will always have questions," he said.
Leigh's mother Sharon, said she was haunted by questions about the crime.
"We don't know the last 12 days where she was left."
Rob Matthews said there were "lots of half-truths" surrounding her death.
Sharon Matthews said she was thrilled the investigation into her daughter's death was still open.
"We still talk about her every day; we think about her every day."
Asked if he was confident this would be the last time Moodley would try to exonerate himself, Van Zyl said: "Not confident at all. We expect to see him again."