Pair tell of nun’s murder

2015-05-13 11:22
Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni Phungula admitted in the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday that they raped and murdered Ixopo nun Sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher.

Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni Phungula admitted in the Pietermaritzburg high court yesterday that they raped and murdered Ixopo nun Sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher. (Jonathan Burton)

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THE men arrested for the fatal attack on Ixopo nun Sister Gertrud ­Tiefenbacher have pleaded guilty to ­raping and murdering her, but the state says it does not accept their version of how the killing occurred.

Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni ­Phungula, both 25 and of Shayamoya, near Ixopo, yesterday pleaded guilty ­before Judge Nompumelelo Radebe to raping and murdering the nun (87), and theft of her property. But state advocate Sandesh Sankar said the prosecution did not believe Shozi and Phungula’s version of how she had died.

In their statements, they admitted ­only that they “foresaw that covering her mouth and nose may result in death” and reconciled themselves to that.

The state will also argue that their ­actions that night showed that they had committed robbery, and not the lesser offence of theft.

The prosecution did, however, accept their admissions that they had each raped Sister Tiefenbacher (affectionately known as Sister Stefani), before ­raiding the kitchen.

In unemotional terms their written plea to the court described how they had grabbed Tiefenbacher after she ­surprised them in the convent on the night of April 18, pulled her into a ­bedroom, tied her up and raped her.

They said that they had earlier been drinking alcohol in a tavern.

Shozi said that en route to a forest to fetch wood to “build a shelter”, they passed the Sacred Heart Convent and decided to go in and steal food.

“We tried the door and it was open. As we were walking along the corridor to locate the kitchen, the deceased ­[Tiefenbacher] appeared and she ­shouted, ‘Hey!’ We got a shock because we did not know anyone resided in that ­building.

“I grabbed her and held her from ­behind. My right arm was around her chest and my right hand was at her throat. We pulled her into a bedroom. Accused 2 [Phungula] tied her hands in front of her with an electric cord and he gagged her mouth by tying a scarf around her head. I pushed her back onto the bed. I then removed her panties and had sexual intercourse with her, without her consent,” he said.

Shozi said he then went to the kitchen. Later Phungula joined him and told him that he too had raped Tiefenbacher. They then “took groceries”, a vacuum cleaner and a watch before leaving.

They later sold rice, flour and sanitary pads they had taken to a certain Sibusiso Magoso.

Phungula said Tiefenbacher was “moving” when he left her in the bedroom.

Both expressed remorse for their actions.

They said being intoxicated had affected their judgment, but they had known what they were doing.

“I know my actions were reprehensible,” said Shozi, while Phungula stated, “I wish I could undo what I have done”.

Later Ixopo district surgeon Dr Yusuf Bhana testified that it seemed the killers had made an “extra effort” to ensure Tiefenbacher’s death.

Bhana said he found a towel wrapped around the nun’s neck, with shoelaces bound around the outside of the towel.

The presence of the shoelaces around the towel seemed to indicate “extra effort” on the killers’ part to ensure she died. Why else would they tie laces around the towel? he asked.

Bhana also found bruises on Tiefenbacher’s neck, and abrasions and bruises of her nostril, and on her lips and chin, some of which bled into her mouth.

In his opinion, “considerable force” was required to cause the injuries Tiefenbacher suffered.

Bhana’s post mortem finding was that Tiefenbacher died of “strangulation/throttling”, although he conceded under questioning by defence advocate Zina Anastasiou that it was possible she could have died of suffocation.

He disputed, however, that she was likely to have been alive when her assailants left her, as they claimed in their statements.

Anastasiou will tell the court today if the accused want to testify in person before the court delivers its verdict.

The gallery was filled yesterday with Sister Tiefenbacher’s fellow nuns from the Sacred Heart convent, who have attended every appearance by the nun’s killers

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