Life sentence for wife killer

2008-05-06 00:00

Nico Vather (35) was sentenced to life imprisonment by high court Judge Piet Koen here yesterday for the “monstrous” murder of his wife, Valentia (38), in Prestbury on the night of November 2, 2005.

Vather who was found by the court to have shown no remorse, continued smiling after he was found guilty and showed little emotion on being led to the court cells to start serving his life term.

In his earlier judgment, Koen said a great deal of the testimony turned out to be “red herrings” that had distracted from the real issues serving only to introduce “some intrigue that would be more properly confined to a television soap opera”.

This included evidence surrounding the “somewhat bizarre” relationship between Vather, his alleged mistress, Yasmin Shaik, and his wife. Much time and energy was devoted to Shaik’s relationship with Vather, her alleged complicity in the death of her husband, Adam Shaik, and a contract she allegedly put out on Vather.

“We waited with bated breath for the relevance of this evidence to emerge, but it did not,” the judge said.

He described Shaik as an “unimpressive, unco-operative and evasive” witness who left him with the impression she was “playing with the court” and was “somewhat economical with the truth”.

He said it was clear that she and Vather have had a “long past history” together from which she tried to distance herself.

However, her denial that she was with Valentia Vather the night she was killed (as Vather alleged) was “probably correct” in light of corroborating evidence, including that of Vather’s landlady, Martha van der Merwe, who saw no visitors arrive that night.

The court accepted the evidence of Brian Singh, Ricky Naidoo, Van der Merwe and of Vather’s former cellmate, Mark David, who all said he had confessed to them that he murdered his wife.

There was also forensic evidence that the victim’s blood was on Vather’s T-shirt, which was found at the crime scene.

The judge said when passing sentence that he had weighed up Vather’s personal circumstances against the “particularly serious nature of the offence and the violence and cruelty that was associated with it”.

Society has a right to be protected against such “monstrous behaviour” committed within a domestic context, the judge said.

State advocate Dheelan Naidoo urged the court to find that the murder was premeditated based on the evidence of David, to whom Vather confessed details of the murder and offered money to murder his wife, but the judge ruled that this alone was not proof the killing that night was premeditated and not the result of an argument.

Judge Koen said Vather is clearly a dangerous member of society with no respect for the sanctity of human life.

He said Vather’s previous convictions — for indecent assault, murder, defeating the administration of justice and assault — were factors that weighed heavily with the court for sentencing.

He said Vather showed no remorse for murdering his wife, but stuck steadfastly to his version that he had left her alive and well in the company of Shaik.

The judge said the postmortem report revealed the attack on Valentia Vather was “particularly brutal, cruel and callous”. It revealed at least five clean-cut wounds between 17 and 19 cm in depth. Vather also left a steak knife buried in the wound on her breast.

After committing his “terrible deed”, he had enjoyed himself, drinking in the HQ Sports Bar and later satisfied his urges with a prostitute or prostitutes, at Dream Girls escort agency.

Judge Koen said Vather’s previous convictions showed a propensity to commit violent crimes and, more importantly, showed that he did not appear to have learnt a lesson. Having had the benefit of being released on parole (after serving 10 years of a sentence for murder), Vather committed assault and was returned to prison.

Judge Koen said it was also clear that had he served the full term of 15 years’ imprisonment imposed on him in September 1992, that Vather would still have been in custody in November 2005, when he committed his latest murder.

He said the murder was a tremendous loss for Valentia Vather’s family and her friends, and traumatised her three children — her son with Vather (now four years old), and two older daughters from a previous marriage.

Judge Koen said it seemed from the evidence that the two-year-old boy must have been in the room with his dead mother the night she was murdered for up to 10 hours until Vather came to fetch him. However, he said there was no evidence and the court was unable to find that he had been present when Vather killed his wife.

Clinical child psychologist, Jill Willows said when she observed the boy at play at his crèche, he had taken a toy duck and punched it repeatedly saying what sounded like; “die, die, die”. This was “unusual play” for a child, she said.

The court heard that the child struggled to sleep or eat and suffered from “night terrors”, among other symptoms of acute trauma.

Valentia Vather’s brother, Reynard Royappen, and her cousin, Lucelle Govender, both said after sentencing yesterday they were “happy and relieved” that Vather was jailed for life.

“God has answered our prayers. Val can now rest in peace and we can begin to put all this behind us and move forward,” Govender said.

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