Warburton killer guilty

2010-12-07 07:13

The man accused of killing psychology intern Bianca Warburton was found guilty of her murder by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg yesterday.

Warburton (26), was gunned down in a botched hijacking near the Alexandra Clinic, where she worked as an intern, on October 14 last year. She was assisting young people and women infected by HIV with psychological matters.

Sthembiso Mseleku (25), was found guilty of murder, attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm and unlawful possession of ammunition.

Judge Halima Saldulker said the State had proved beyond reasonable doubt all four charges against Mseleku. She called him an “unimpressive, lying witness”.

During trial Mseleku had pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. He said that on the day of the incident he was very ill with sores on his private parts. He said he could not walk for 10 minutes without resting. He later contradicted himself when he said on that day he walked for an hour to a toilet on 3rd Street, from 1st Street where he lived. He denied being involved in Warburton’s murder despite two witnesses who testified having seen him running with a gun from the scene.

The court rejected his alibi of being very ill. Saldulker said the two witnesses were credible and there was no room for mistake on how he was identified in an identity parade. She said he was a liar who was very evasive when he was in the witness box.

Accused number two Mphumuzeni Gumede (28), was found guilty of being an accessory to murder after he helped Mseleku hide the murder weapon. Gumede was also found guilty of unlawful possession of an illegal firearm, and unlawful possession of illegal ammunition.

He was found not guilty of attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Gumede received the firearm from Mseleku and just over an hour later he took it to accused number three, Moffat Mthonti, whom he asked to hide it. During trial he claimed Mseleku had not told him that the firearm had “affected” somebody which was contrary to his statement where he stated he had been told this by Mseleku when he asked him to hide the weapon.

Saldulker described Gumede as a “poor witness” who tried to deny the weapon he helped to hide had “affected” someone. However, she said there had been no evidence linking him to the murder scene.

Mthonti (29), was found guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition. He was found not guilty of robbery with aggravating circumstances and murder.

Mthonti accepted the firearm from Gumede. The gun was found during a police search when he was arrested. It was in his cupboard, loaded with seven rounds of ammunition, behind plates.

During mitigation for sentence, Mseleku’s attorney Advocate Mbhazima Mavodze said his client was previously convicted for unlawful possession of a firearm on June 24, 2005. He was sentenced to three years in prison and was released in June 2007 on parole which lapsed in June 2008.

Mavodze asked the court not to impose a life sentence on Mseleku. He said he was a youth and candidate for rehabilitation, with no history of violence.

“You need to convince me why the court should not impose a life sentence. Where are the compelling circumstances there, when you say he is a youth and a candidate for rehabilitation?” Saldulker asked.

She said a young woman who had done nothing wrong was killed.

“What is happening in this country Mr Mavodze? You get in the car, you have to lock your doors. You are in the house, you need to lock your doors. Clearly, we are under house arrest in this country!

“What is so outstanding that I should not impose life sentence,” the judge asked.

The State called for a life sentence for Mseleku.

Gumede and Mthonti’s attorney, Enrico Guamen, pleaded for his clients to be given sentences that would run concurrently. The State called for higher sentences for the two.

Salduker said there was a new enemy in South Africa, crime.

“People lost their lives while fighting for freedom but we are facing a new enemy – crime.”

She postponed the matter to Wednesday for sentencing.

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