Three guilty of murdering elderly farm wife

2011-03-07 00:00

THE high court sitting at Mtubatuba has convicted three men of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances arising from an attack on 78-year-old Owen Berry Smith and his wife, Gwen, at their farm Windfall at Monzi near Mtubatuba on the night of June 22 to 23, 2007.

Cellphones and cash were taken during the robbery.

The convicted men are Thulani Mthembu (20), Khulekani Gumede (27) and Mziwakhe Mbuyazi (27), all of Kwambonambi.

State advocate Dorian Paver called for age assessments on the accused as well as probation officer’s reports prior to sentencing, and the case was adjourned to July 14.

Gwen Smith died of a dislocated cervical spine, according to medical evidence.

Detailing the evidence during his judgment last week, Judge David Ntshangase said a report by Dr Ruben Naicker who conducted the post mortem, revealed Mrs Smith also suffered a bruises to the right cheek and jaw, cuts on the forehead, and a single bullet wound to her left thigh.

Summarising Owen Berry Smith’s evidence, the judge said: “One man pushed his head on the bed and held a screwdriver to his neck — a screwdriver pointed behind his right eye. The assailant demanded money repeatedly. One of the three intruders was armed with a firearm. He took out Smith’s penis, held the firearm to it and pulled the trigger. The firearm clicked. A rope was brought, with it his hands were tied behind his back and he was pushed and locked up in the bathroom where he was confined until he was after some time able to release himself.”

The accused all pleaded not guilty and gave different reasons for having gone to the farm.

The three were arrested by Captain Cleophas Nkosinathi Magubane. A fourth suspect, Thulani Hlophe, was killed in a gun battle with the police in which Magubane was injured.

Magubane testified that he made a breakthrough in his investigation when he found a stolen Nokia cellphone was being used. This led to the arrest of one of the accused on March 4, 2008.

The high court ruled that the statements made to Magubane by the three accused following their arrests were made freely and voluntarily.

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