Accused life insurance scammers appear in high court

2017-05-23 13:30
The accused in a life insurance murder-plot trial cover their faces to avoid photographers in court.

The accused in a life insurance murder-plot trial cover their faces to avoid photographers in court. (Ingrid Oellermann )

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Three women and two men charged with murdering carefully selected victims to cash in on life insurance payments, hid behind their colourful scarves and hoodies when they appeared briefly in the high court on Monday.

Two of the women, Mildred Fisani Khoza (39) of Keats Drift and Doris Jabulile Dladla/Zaca (54) of Imbali, are schoolteachers at Eshane High School and Eastwood Primary School respectively, while the third woman, Hlengiwe Judith Zuma (54) of France, Pietermaritzburg, is a nurse employed by the KZN Health Department.

Their two co-accused are Joseph Zamokwakhe Khanyile (37) of Ematimatolo — formerly employed as a packer at NTE in Hermannsburg — and Mandla Doda Khumalo (37), also of Ematimatolo, who is an owner of taxis.

The state alleges that they formed a syndicate to enrich themselves through benefiting from fraudulent insurance policies, and that they are each guilty of the individual crimes committed, regardless of whether they physically carried them out or were present at the scene.

The case was called up briefly before Judge Jerome Mnguni on Monday but was adjourned after state advocate Attie Truter said the defence had indicated that they needed more time to prepare for trial.

He said he wanted it to be recorded that the prosecution was “ready to go to trial” on Monday.

The state’s indictment details a chilling plot that resulted in the murder of three people — Mzomukule Zuma on August 27, 2015; Sonosakhe Mdlalose on March 19, 2016; and Bongani Gcabashe on August 4, 2016 — and the attempted murder of an allegedly mentally challenged woman, Thandeka Gwala, on November 20, 2015.

The prosecution alleges the assailants “staged” car accidents for three of their chosen victims — Zuma, Gwala and Mdlalose — each of whom were run over after they were given a mixture of alcohol and drugs that immobilised and incapacitated them.

This was because the killers allegedly knew that insurers and financial service providers paid out a higher benefit to the nominated beneficiaries of life insurance policies if the insured person died in a car accident.

Gwala survived the allegedly “staged” accident on the Table Mountain/Copesville road but suffered serious injuries.

The gang also allegedly failed in their attempts to intoxicate their fourth victim, Bongani Gcabashe, and abandoned their plan to stage a car accident for him. Instead, they lured him to a tuck shop at Ematimatolo and shot him dead.

According to the indictment, the insurers and financial service providers (Avbob, Clientele, Discovery, Hollard, Old Mutual, Regent Life, Sanlam and Standard Bank) lost R1 369 880.

As soon as the five accused realised there were journalists and photographers in court on Monday, the women wrapped long scarves around their heads and faces, while the two men pulled their hoodies over their heads.

All five are in custody, having been refused bail when they initially appeared in court in Greytown.

The case was postponed to November 13 and the trial has been set down to continue until December 1.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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