Two years for burning bodies

2014-06-18 17:01
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Pretoria - A former Limpopo farmer who incinerated the bodies of two illegal hunters shot dead by his son ten years ago was sentenced on Wednesday to two years' imprisonment.

Judge Winston Msimeki in the High Court in Pretoria sentenced the 59-year-old Douw de Beer to two years' imprisonment for defeating the cause of justice by burning the bodies of two illegal hunters, Morris Morua, 36, and Zacharia Leso, 35, on his game farm Deo Gloria near Boshhoek on 22 April 2004.

De Beer's son Dyllan, 26, was sentenced to a fine of R2 000 or six months' imprisonment for stealing one of the men's cellphones.

Msimeki turned down Douw de Beer's application for leave to appeal against his sentence and his son's bid to appeal against his conviction.

He extended De Beer Sr's bail of R10 000 pending a petition to the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal against his sentence.

De Beer was warned that he would have to report within 48 hours to start serving his prison sentence if the application was turned down.

De Beer's son - now a qualified veterinary surgeon - was 16 years old and still at school when he shot dead the two men.

In the absence of any other evidence, the court accepted his version that he had acted in self-defence because the two were illegally hunting on his father's farm and were shooting at him when he returned fire.

His father admitted burning the bodies on a stack of wood but told the court he was "beside himself" and had decided to "clean up" because he wanted to prevent his son from being arrested.

The investigating officer Capt Nick Pitsoane earlier testified that the only human remains found on the farm consisted of ten small bones, which was not enough for a funeral.

Hard to condone

A probation officer said in a report De Beer and his family were threatened by the community, he had to sell his farm at a loss and he was unemployed as a result of the incident.

According to the report, the families of the two deceased were severely traumatised because they could not mourn the loss of their loved ones.

They still presented with unresolved trauma and suppressed emotions of anger and sadness.

Msimeki described the conduct of the De Beers as "despicable".

He said De Beer Sr had made sure that nothing of the bodies remained, which involved planning. He had then instructed his son to throw the cellphone in the dam.

He had interacted with the police but failed to tell them what he had done and left them to go on a wild goose chase for the bodies, only confessing to what he had done some time later.

"It can seriously not be said that De Beer Sr had been that candid with the police. His conduct prevented the holding of post mortems on the deceased.

"I do not think he would have confessed if the cellphone had not been traced by the police. One has to consider the issue of remorse with caution.

"Nothing prevented the accused from involving the police right from the outset.

"They did not do this because they wanted to conceal the death of the deceased.

Two years

"It is unfortunate that the State did not have eyewitnesses who could have tendered direct evidence. The defence version remained as a result uncontroverted.

"The conduct of the accused however remains worrisome. It is hard to condone their conduct," Msimeki said.

He said although the case had been dragging on for ten years, the accused could not simply escape punishment for their despicable deeds because of it.

Prosecutor Christo Roberts had a tough time to explain the sentences to highly upset family members of Morua and Leso.

He said although it was a terrible thing that happened, the prosecuting authority could only go on the available evidence and not appeal against the men's acquittal on the murder charge.

The angry family members made it clear that they were not happy with the light sentences.

"Two years is nothing. It is too small," an emotional family member cried out.

The families were also very upset because they had never been shown where the bodies were burnt and not even the few bones that had been recovered were ever returned to them so that they could hold a funeral.

- SAPA
Read more on:    polokwane  |  crime
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