Farmer’s killer gets 30 years’

2012-10-15 00:00

FAMILY and friends of slain Peacevale farmer and “meticulous craftsman”, Russel Walford (73) expressed satisfaction on Friday at an effective 30-year jail sentence meted out to his killer by Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Kevin Swain.

Walford’s former employee, Trust Sibanda (20) of Zimbabwe, who was found guilty of murdering him and robbing him of his cellphone and a Jeep jacket, continued to protest his innocence.

The judge ordered he must serve 18 years of his prison sentence before parole could be considered.

Walford was famed for manufacturing high-quality, meticulously crafted furniture, including display cases for the Durban museum.

He also kept a herd of Jersey cows.

He died of head injuries and a fractured skull during a “brutal” attack on his farm, Sterkspruit, where he lived alone, sometime between July 3 and 4, 2010.

His body was found lying under a tree by his brother, Andrew, who is a well-known potter in KZN.

Swain said that it was apparent that Walford died after struggling with his killer, as the court heard that lacerations to his left arm and forearm were typical defensive injuries.

The doctor who performed the postmortem said a great deal of force was needed to fracture Walford’s skull in the way it was fractured.

Swain found, among other things, the fact that Sibanda was only 17 years and 11 months old when he committed his “terrible” crimes, amounted to circumstances that justified a lesser sentence than the prescribed one of life for premeditated murder.

Andrew and Leanda Walford said that the sentence would bring some sense of closure to the family. They expressed gratitude that Sibanda was convicted despite early hiccups in the police investigation, largely through the efforts of state advocate Sandra Senekal.

They planned to get in touch with close family members who are scattered all over the world.

They include Russel’s adult daughter and his wife, who moved to England a few years ago after she was shot and paralysed during an earlier robbery.

Swain said that attacks on farmers in which they are robbed or killed are all too common in our society. There is a public outcry about these attacks on a “most valuable and vulnerable sector of society”, he said.

“I say vulnerable, because farmers are by the very nature of their occupation, isolated and easy prey,” he said. The judge said the facts in this case graphically demonstrated that point.

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