‘Savage, barbaric man’

2014-12-20 00:00

THE court room erupted when a former Blue Bulls rugby player and now confirmed serial killer was handed five life sentences.

Emotions ran high outside the court as murderer Phindile Joseph Ntshongwana’s family clashed with a relative of his victims eventually, leading to police and court orderlies removing a large group of supporters from the court precinct.

Ntshongwana (37), known as “the Axeman”, was found guilty on all nine charges.

He was sentenced to life for each of the four murders and one rape, and 14 years in total for kidnapping, assault and attempted murder.

The sentences will run concurrently.

Judge Irfaan Khalil in the Durban high court said in situations where crimes have been so violent “retribution overshadows rehabilitation”.

“He had flagrant disregard for human life. He was methodical, rational and calculated in his behaviour. He hid behind mental illness as an excuse,” said Khalil.

As part of Ntshongwana’s defence and mitigation against sentence, his legal team argued that he was mentally ill and should not be imprisoned in a general correctional facility but rather a hospital.

But Khalil who looked Ntshongwana directly in the eyes as he read out the sentence and called him a “brutally savage and barbaric man”.

“I do not accept the accused is genuinely remorseful but at most regretful for being caught,” said Khalil.

Ntshongwana, with his mother, Phylina Letlaka, and sister, Luleka Ntshongwana, sitting behind him, sat motionless in the dock.

Initially his breathing was heavy — the only sign of stress — but towards the end of his judgment, he looked calm with no visible perspiration. His emotionless face — a trademark of his very public prosecution — remained steadfast.

As he was walked down towards to cells to start his jail-term, his sister, Luleka, rushed up to him, touched his back and said: “This is not the end”.

Speaking outside the court, Luleka said the sentence did not take his condition of mental illness into account.

“We do feel the pain of the people who have lost fathers and brothers who were bread winners. We have shed many tears. I don’t have tears any more. I have peace in my heart. If my brother must spend the rest of his life in jail, so be it.”

Gugu Mbete, whose son-in-law Paulos Hlongwa was hacked to death, said Ntshongwana had left Hlongwa’s wife a widow.

“The law has taken its course. Justice is done but it won’t bring [Hlongwa] back,” said Mbete.

Ntshongwana hacked and killed Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu in Montclair, Hlongwa in Lamontville, Simon Ngidi in Umbilo and an unidentified man in Yellowwood Park over a week in March 2011. Two of the men were beheaded.

He also repeatedly raped a woman over a four day period while holding her captive.

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