A Cape Town flower seller wept after he was sentenced to life imprisonment today.
“You are not a murderer!” emotional relatives of Gershwin Hartzenberg (23) shouted as they embraced him in the dock before he was led back to the cells.
“They [the police] didn’t do their work right... God is in control!”
Hartzenberg was convicted of shooting Jane van Zyl in her car outside her Bergvliet home on the night of April 13 2008, and stealing her handbag.
He was also sentenced to 10 years in jail for robbing Newlands resident Linda Heeger in similar circumstances a month earlier, and five years for unlawful possession of a gun and ammunition.
Judge Siraj Desai said he had considered the fact that Hartzenberg was only 21 at the time, and that he had no previous convictions involving acts of violence.
He also accepted evidence of Hartzenberg’s older sister that he grew up in difficult circumstances, and that he had been abused and mistreated by his father.
But he also noted that Hartzenberg showed no remorse, and that his act of “absolute brutality” had had a tremendous effect on Van Zyl’s husband Smiley in particular.
It had been Van Zyl who had had to switch off his wife’s life-support system in hospital, Desai said.
“To ignore the seriousness of the crime would diminish the humanity of our society,” he said.
“Your conduct in this matter [the murder] was so barbaric and brutal that only the maximum sentence that this court can impose is suitable.”
Van Zyl told reporters afterwards that he had hoped for the maximum sentence, and that was what had been handed down.
“Nothing will bring Jane back, but the law has run its course and I must accept that,” he said.
He said Hartzenberg’s older sister, Bonita Appolis, had approached him in court and told him she was very sorry for the death of his wife, “which I accept fully”.
Asked if he felt he had closure now, he replied: “Closure, yes, forgive, never, forget, never. But yes, I’ll move on with my life.”
Hartzenberg is to appear in the Cape Town Regional Court in November for trial on another charge, believed to be related to a stolen vehicle.