Leigh Matthews murder: Convicted killer Donovan Moodley changes version again during parole hearing

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Donovan Moodley was convicted of the murder of student Leigh Matthews in 2004.
Donovan Moodley was convicted of the murder of student Leigh Matthews in 2004.
PHOTO: Bongiwe Gumede, Gallo Images, Foto24
  • Donovan Moodley was sentenced to life for kidnapping and killing student Leigh Matthews in 2004.
  • After initially being denied parole, he had another parole hearing on Wednesday.
  • The parole board will make its recommendations, but the final decision lies with the justice minister.

Donovan Moodley, who is serving life in jail for kidnapping and murdering Leigh Matthews, has allegedly changed his version of events again, this time during his parole hearing, claiming that he shot Matthews because she was screaming.

Moodley's parole hearing, which lasted for several hours, was held at the Johannesburg prison on Wednesday.

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Moodley has been given another shot at parole, after his parole was denied in January 2022.

Moodley challenged the decision in the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, which ruled that the parole hearing should be held again because the minutes of the hearing were "incoherent".

The latest parole hearing was attended by Matthews' parents, Rob and Sharon Matthews, their attorney Tania Koen and Luke Lamprecht from Women and Men against Child Abuse.

More versions

After the marathon parole hearing ended, Matthews and Koen told News24 that Moodley had changed his version yet again.

Moodley abducted Matthews from Bond University, Sandton, in 2004 and held her captive while demanding ransom money from her family. After receiving R50 000 from Matthews' father, Moodley shot her three times instead of letting her go.

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping and extortion. Moodley admitted that the crimes were pre-meditated. Moodley was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for kidnapping, and 10 years for extortion.

READ | I was set up, says Donovan Moodley

After being sentenced, Moodley spent the next few years trying to get out of prison with different applications challenging his conviction and even a bid to have a re-trial where he would tell the truth.

These challenges included him changing his version multiple times. At one point, Moodley even claimed he was entirely innocent and had been set up.

In another version, he said there were three drug dealers involved, but later reneged on that version.

For the first time, Moodley apparently said he shot Matthews because she was screaming.

Rob Matthews said this was yet another fabrication because, throughout the years, Moodley never said he had chosen to shoot Leigh because she was screaming.

He said Moodley has given them between seven to eight different versions over the years, none of which have been the absolute truth.

"If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember all the other things you said," Matthews said.

The Matthews family have spent the last 18 years hoping to find out the full truth, which to them includes the answers to the following questions:

  1. Who else was involved, and what specific role did they play?
  2. After Leigh was shot and killed, where was she kept for 10 days before her body was dumped in a veld in Walkerville?
  3. Moodley must give up the names and identities of those who helped him, so that the cops can effect more arrests. 
  4. Who is he protecting and why?

None of these answers were given to the Matthews family on Wednesday.

Instead, Moodley maintained he acted alone and apologised for what he did.

Koen said Moodley did not show remorse, and that there could be no remorse without telling the truth.

She added that Moodley sent the Matthews family an apology letter 15 years after the crime, but only because he knew that he would become eligible for parole.

Koen said the idea of rehabilitation is that the person has changed their ways, but how could Moodley be rehabilitated and still not tell the truth about how the crime was committed and who was involved?

Koen said:

You can’t be rehabilitated if you continue to lie.

Matthews, who said the day was extremely difficult for him and his wife as they had to relive all those memories of their daughter being taken from them and murdered, also questioned the parole hearing procedures.

As he has said before, Matthews does not believe that the parole hearings are victim-centric.

"Most of the time is dedicated to representations from the offender," Matthews said.

He was also disappointed that the parole board would not accept submissions made by experts on Moodley and whether or not he should be paroled.

Parole decision

According to the Department of Correctional Services (DCS), the parole board recommended further profiling.

Lamprecht said the board had requested a further profile and made reference to the need for further psychotherapy to address Moodley being motivated by greed and money.

DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said the parole board's file will now move to the next phase as it's handed to the National Council for Correctional Services for consideration.

Thereafter the Minister of Justice will ultimately make the decision on whether Moodley is granted parole.

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