Priest attackers guilty of culpable homicide
Pretoria - Four young Diepsloot men who were part of a gang which broke into a Roman Catholic manse in Diepsloot in 2009 and shot dead an elderly priest were found guilty on Tuesday of culpable homicide.
Judge Natvarial Ranchod said the State had proved the guilt of Kgaugelo Manzini, 21, Thembalethu Sindane, 18, Freddy Mahlangu, 21, and Jabu Ndebele, 18, on charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, but not on the charge of murder.
He, however, found that the four should have foreseen that someone could die during the robbery and found them guilty on a charge of culpable homicide, resulting from the December 2009 death of 70-year-old Father Louis Blondel.
Father Blondel was shot dead after a gang of young men broke into the manse in search of a computer and money.
They made off with a computer, R50 and a watch after a fifth member of the group, Nelson Malope, shot dead the priest as he woke up.
The 20-year-old Malope was earlier sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to the murder and robbery, and later testified against the others.
Manzini, Mahlanga and Ndebele admitted being at the manse that day, but distanced themselves from the shooting.
They claimed the break-in had happened on the spur of the moment and they had not been aware that Malope was armed.
Sindane denied that he was near the manse at all that day.
Malope testified that they had all planned to steal a computer while they were drinking at a shebeen the previous day.
He said Ndebele had given the gun to him and that all of the accused knew he had the gun, although they had only planned to use it to frighten their victims should it become necessary.
He told the court he and Sindane had entered the house through a window and opened the door for the others.
While the others went to fetch the computer, he and Sindane went to Father Blondel's bedroom. The priest woke up when Sindane pulled off his blankets and Malope subsequently shot him.
Judge Ranchod said that the accused were barely out of their teens and the credulity and gullibility of youth had played a role.
"The accused, gullible as they were, living in a crime-ridden country as they did, should have foreseen the possibility of death when a group sets out to commit a robbery with a gun in hand," he said.
The judge said Malope had made a very good impression on the witness stand, in sharp contrast to the four accused who failed dismally in their attempts to gainsay his evidence.
He said there was corroboration for Malope's evidence by the police, who found the loot in the accused's shacks and had statements made by some of the accused after their arrest.
The judge rejected three of the accused's claims that the break-in had occurred on the spur of the moment and said there were glaring inconsistencies in their versions.
He also rejected Sindane's claims of innocence and described him as a pathetic witness.
The trial was postponed to August 13 for pre-sentencing reports.