Life for farmer’s killers

2017-03-06 10:14
The judge said the Ixopo man’s brutal murder had destroyed his family.

The judge said the Ixopo man’s brutal murder had destroyed his family. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg: “I heard Anton’s voice filled with terror, saying ‘Glenda, phone the police, I’ve been stabbed’. That was the last time I heard his voice.”

These are the tragic words of widow Glenda Verwey, written in a victim impact statement describing her late husband Anton’s murder and the effect it has had on their family.

Since Anton Verwey (68) was stabbed to death during a robbery at the couple’s small farm in Ixopo on March 7 last year, his widow has moved to Kenya to live with relatives.

The couple’s two sons, Guy and Logan, both live overseas.

The court heard that before the murder, Glenda Verwey fell ill with cancer and had limited eyesight.

State advocate Dheelan Naidoo said her health, the couple’s age and location on a farm added to their vulnerability.

Two of Verwey’s killers, Skhumbuzo Khanyile (21) and Sphokuhle Malunga (26), were jailed for life for his murder by Judge Piet Bezuidenhout in the Pietermaritzburg high court on Friday.

Each of the men received additional sentences of 14 and 13 years respectively for related charges, including housebreaking and attempted robbery.

The judge said that he regarded it as aggravating that the two men and their accomplice, Thandanani Mweli — who is already serving a 25-year sentence for the murder — had broken into the farmhouse a few days before the murder and stole items worth R44 000.

He said it was greed that drove the trio back to the farm again in the early hours of March 7, 2016. At that time they were armed (with a stick and a knife) as they realised they might encounter opposition. “It shows they had a clear intention to continue raiding the home of the deceased [Verwey] whether the occupants were present or not,” said the judge.

He found that Malunga had passed the knife through a window to Khanyile, who in turn passed it to Mweli who stabbed the elderly farmer while Khanyile held him. He was stabbed twice, once in the heart and once in the stomach.

The court relied on the evidence of Mweli to convict the two men. He pleaded guilty to the crimes soon after his arrest and undertook to help police to bring the other assailants to book.

Judge Bezuidenhout said when he testified in the case Mweli had not tried to minimise his own role and he had shown genuine remorse. He said he could not find that either Khanyile or Malunga were remorseful.

He said from the victim impact statements it was clear that Verwey’s murder had destroyed the family and the elderly couple’s desire to retire peacefully in a farming area.

“Citizens are entitled to be safe and secure in their houses. The robberies and killings are severely affecting our society and the economy and cannot be tolerated,” he said.

The night of the murder

Describing the events that fateful night in her written statement, Glenda Verwey said she woke to “loud screams”.

“Anton was no longer in bed. I found no surprise in this as it was a long-time habit of his to rise early, get a cup of coffee and settle in front of his iPad to check for e-mails, update the details of the previous day’s weather. Almost immediately thereafter I heard Anton, his voice filled with terror, saying ‘Glenda, phone the police, I’ve been stabbed’ … I grabbed my phone and my reading glasses to carry out his request. In that time he had managed to walk half way down the passage towards me, but had now collapsed on the floor. I knelt beside him, almost afraid to touch him in case he was in severe pain. I did not know where the stab wounds might be. When I rested my head on his back, I realised I could feel no breathing or heartbeat. Anton had been taken away from this life in the most horrific manner. I shook uncontrollably in a complete state of shock.”

The couple’s sons, Guy and Logan, and Logan’s wife, Ulla, also wrote of their trauma via e-mail.

“I had a restless night trying to figure out how to put into words the mix of emotions I have lived with since that tragic morning. Emotions that range from deep sorrow at the loss of a father, utter rage at the manner in which he was taken and complete emptiness, trying to find direction again,” wrote Guy.

Logan said it was “unthinkable” to need to write explaining the impact of the loss one’s father has on one’s life. “The people responsible for taking away my father have ripped away a part of my life and my family’s life in one act of selfish greed with no care for life. They have left behind an empty space that can never be filled. Every single day, and not just once a day, there are reminders that bring up a struggle between the feelings of love that I have for my father, which make me want to smile in his memory, and the hate for what has happened and for those responsible,” he wrote.

Ulla Verwey said she had known Anton for only eight years but had come to love him deeply. She described him as a man that “never complained about a single thing in life and was always able to crack a joke”.

“When a person has passed away you are meant to eventually smile and treasure the moments and memories you shared. However, the way we lost Anton has left a void and an emptiness one cannot explain. All the constant positive reminders of him are immediately replaced by that one single cruel act.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  farm attacks

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