Killer couple get life terms

2010-10-09 00:00

KWAZULU-NATAL Judge President Herbert Msimang yesterday imposed life sentences on Howick couple Sunesh Manilall (37) and Mumtaz Osman (37), and on Victor Mbatha (31) for orchestrating the contract murder of Manilall’s first wife, Monika, on February 3, 2006.

Four men gunned down Monika Manilall in the home she shared with Manilall and their two children. The four received what the high court termed a “measly R10 000” fee. The motive was Manilall’s affair with Osman, whom he later married under Islamic rites.

Sentencing the trio yesterday, Judge Msimang said it was “disquieting” that all concerned regarded the sum of R10 000 as sufficient compensation for performing such a heinous act. “It is indeed frightening to realise how cheap human life is nowadays,” he said.

He also recorded the court’s “deep regret” that human morality has sunk so low as to lead human beings to murder “even those they professed to love and those in respect of whom they take a solemn oath to protect”.

He said the fact that Manilall must have taken an oath to treat his late wife with kindness in terms of his religion did not prevent him from engaging in a “carefully planned conspiracy” to murder her.

The judge said he also could not overlook the attitude of the three accused, who had in the face of “overwhelming damning evidence” persisted in their denials.

Mbatha even had the “audacity” to take an oath and testify in mitigation that he believed he should not be sentenced at all as he still protested his innocence. “I certainly view this callous refusal to show remorse in a very serious light,” the judge president said.

The judge said he initially thought that Mbatha should not receive a sentence of equal severity to that of Manilall and Osman because he merely “facilitated” the murder.

However, after analysing the evidence he concluded that what Mbatha did was more than just facilitation, and that it was difficult to distinguish his role from that of a hirer.

Commenting during an application for leave to appeal against sentence by Mbatha, Judge Msimang said he should perhaps consider himself lucky that the era of the death penalty has passed.

The trio were all refused leave to appeal against their convictions.

MONIKA Manilall’s family said they are happy with the court’s sentence and that justice has finally been done.

Lalitha Ramjas said the family especially appreciated the work done by the investigating officer, Swami Pillay of the organised crime unit

They expressed gratitude to friends and family for their support.

She said Manilall’s two daughter’s, now aged 10 and six years, are being cared for by Sunesh Manilall’s parents.

Relatives of the accused at court declined to comment after the sentencing.

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