He was considered to be the sweetest and kindest of men, but he raped and strangled three women and left their bodies to decompose in the fields of Orange Farm.
This week David Nocela (32), father of a six-year-old child, was given three life sentences for the crimes he committed over three months in 2008.
He was found guilty of the murders of Joyce Mkhwanazi (24), Thembelani Nkuna (22) and Asanda Mhlanga (23).
According to evidence in court, Mkhwanazi and Mhlanga were Nocela’s girlfriends. He was caught after he made calls from two of his victims’ cellphones after their murders.
Speaking at the Vereeniging circuit of the North Gauteng High Court, Mhlanga’s aunt, Nontomzana Sithela, said she had never thought of her niece’s boyfriend as a possible serial killer.
“He led people around him to believe he was a caring man, while he was actually a wolf in sheep’s skin,” she said.
“Asanda was a very nice girl who cared about everyone. She wanted so much to become a singer. I now listen to her music whenever I miss her and want to get close to her.
“This killer called her while I was at home with her. She left and never returned. A month later we found her decomposed body.”
Sithela’s cousin, Hanica Thibane, added: “When family members celebrated their birthdays he would send messages wishing them well.”
Abram Segale (29), Nocela’s friend of 10 years, reeled in shock when he found out about his friend’s barbaric murders.
“He was a kind guy and I did not think he was capable of doing that.
“In all the time I have been his friend, I am still to see his bad side,” he said.
“In March 2008 he told me his girlfriend had been raped and killed. As a friend I comforted him. I never for once thought he was the one who did it.
“He even attended Joyce’s funeral, where he took pictures.”
Nkuna’s parents, Lazarus and Constance Nkuna, are still struggling to come to terms with the death of their daughter.
“She was my only daughter and life is so miserable without her,” Constance said.
“She had two kids and when she was killed the youngest was only six months old and the other was two years old.
“We will never get our daughter back, but at least the thought of him in prison will help to bring us closure.”
Elizabeth Mkhwanazi, Joyce’s mother, did not attend the sentencing.
Judge Boisie Mbha said the victims’ hands were tied behind their backs before they were raped and strangled.
Mbha said although Mhlanga’s postmortem had failed to conclusively show the cause of death, the circumstances were similar to those in the other two murders.
“I do not have the slightest doubt that you strangled her as well,” said the judge.
Mbha said Nocela’s refusal to disclose his reasons for committing the crimes showed that he had no remorse and there was therefore no chance of rehabilitation.
Nocela was also found guilty of the 2002 rape of a 15-year-old.
The judge refused defence counsel advocate Pieter du Plessis’s application for leave to appeal, saying there was no indication that another court might reach a different conclusion.
Nocela will serve his sentences concurrently.