Nuns: Murderers don't know how much we pray for them

2015-05-13 14:07
Sister Gerald Frye (Jeff Wicks, News24)

Sister Gerald Frye (Jeff Wicks, News24)

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Pietermaritzburg - Sbongiseni Phungula, 25, and Mondli Michael Shozi, 26, on Wednesday were found guilty of the rape, robbery and murder of Roman Catholic nun Gertrud Tiefenbacher at an Ixopo convent.

Meanwhile, outside court, Sister Gerald Frye from the convent, said she hoped that in the service of justice, Jesus would touch the hearts of Phungula and Shozi.

“We want the Lord to touch them and they are the recipients of a lot of praying from all corners. We will keep them in our prayers,” she said.

At sentencing, a victim impact statement taken from other nuns at the convent is expected to be read into the record.

The two, who were arrested in a police raid in the wake of Tiefenbacher’s slaying at the Sacred Heart Convent in Ixopo on April 19, appeared in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Wednesday.

Guilty plea

Phungula and Shozi pleaded guilty to the charges of rape and murder, but had attempted to plead to a lesser charge of theft as opposed to robbery with aggravating circumstances.

In delivering her judgment, Judge Nompumelelo Radebe ruled that their actions justified the original charge, and found both guilty on all three counts.

She adjourned proceedings so that the State and defence advocates could prepare for sentencing proceedings set down for Thursday.

The court heard on Tuesday that the 87-year-old missionary nun was found with a towel wrapped around her neck, over which a shoelace had been pulled tight, causing severe bruising. Her hands were bound together by the cord of her electric typewriter and a wet towel, believed to have been used to suffocate her, was over her face.

Sister Tiefenbacher, who was Austrian-born, was found dead on the floor next to her bed in her room at the convent.

Neither of the accused had mentioned the shoelace and Phungula had said that when he left the room after raping Tiefenbacher she was still alive and moving.


The two men explained that they had known each other by sight, but that the night of April 18 was the first time that had socialised at a tavern in Ixopo.

Phungula said in his statement that he had drunk a bottle of cane spirits and a bottle of brandy before he and Shozi decided to head into the nearby woods.

On their way to the forest, they passed the Sacred Heart Convent and decided to enter the kitchen and steal food.

But as they were walking down a passageway in the convent, Sister Tiefenbacher disturbed them.

Shozi, in his statement, said Tiefenbacher shouted at them before he grabbed her, with one arm around her chest and another around her neck, before dragging her back into her room.

Phungula then tied her up and raped her.

Shozi said he then left the room and went to the kitchen.

It was then in his statement that Phungula also admitted to raping the 86-year-old and seeing her still moving as he left the room to join Shozi in the kitchen.

The two then took a vacuum cleaner, some groceries and it was said that they had also made off with a watch.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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