It was a crime so horrific that people still can't stomach the gruesome details.
But the mother of the four innocent young lives lost in the most horrific of ways has had to relive those last moments over and over again in court.
Sylvia Monyela’s four children, Katlego (9), Joyce (7), Tshepo (5) and Adel (3), were murdered allegedly by their father, Lucas Phasha, in February 2020. The four young ones were found dead in Ga-Phasha village, Limpopo.
He’s denied the charges.
The Limpopo man broke down in tears when he appeared at Polokwane High Court on Thursday, 29 April.
His counsel, Advocate Lawrence Mkhize, asked him the question point blank, "Did you kill your children?"
"No, I didn't and . . ." Lucas said while crying.
He also denied he had raped Sylvia, after she testified that he had sexually assaulted her before and she had applied for a protection order.
"I didn't rape her, she is my wife, we love each other, it was consensual. We have been doing this for some years."
Lucas is a former attorney who’s been accused of hitting his children with nails in the back of the head before dumping them in a trench.
The youngest child was found bludgeoned to death with a huge rock some distance from the other three children.
A mother’s love
Sylvia has had a lot to deal with. In an interview with Drum just after the death of her children, she told of an unimaginable pain.
“It is agony having to mourn the deaths of my beloved children. They had so much ahead of them.
“I went to report him,” she said. “He was violent and aggressive. He was like a wild animal.”
Sylvia has had to face the accused in court for days now. During her own testimony, she took to the stand to describe the horrific and gruesome details of what she witnessed with her own eyes on 18 February 2020.
When the state prosecutor, Advocate Mashudu Mudau asked Sylvia to tell the court what happened, he also mentioned they would try not to “traumatise you again".
The mother broke down as she described finding her children. "I found my child at the scene lying dead with a nail . . ." she began.
A 10-minute recess was called so she could find the strength to continue with her testimony.
"I couldn't believe it. I saw it as something too big for me. The professional counselling I have received is helping a little because I can't sleep during the night.”
She told the court about how the police refused for her to open a case of rape and abduction after her husband, allegedly armed with a panga and an axe, forced himself on her the day before her kids were killed.
Sylvia was asked by the state prosecutor what she would say to the suspect if she was given an opportunity to speak to him.
"Lucas, how many women who left you do you have children with ? How many children do you have and you decided to kill all my children? Your father didn't kill you when he separated with your mother. I will never forgive you. Even if you die, I will never come to your funeral. How many other children do you have out there with other women? Why did you decide to kill my children? I stayed with you because I was from a not well-to-do family. My mother died some years ago while I was young.”
This is not Lucas’s first brush with the law. He was convicted of murder in 2002 and sentenced to an effective 18 years imprisonment after he tried to shoot his ex-girlfriend and the bullet missed and hit a neighbour’s toddler.
He only spent six years behind bars and was struck off the roll of attorneys.
He was released on parole in 2008 and completed serving his parole in 2014.
Sylvia was aware of his dark past but thought he had come home to make a fresh start, she told Sowetan in an interview. And now she just wants this to be done.
“A lengthy sentence will give me closure so I can forget about the bad things that happened to me.
“I can't wait for this matter to be finalised so I am able to look for work and keep myself busy so I can forget about this and move on with my life.”