A man who terrorised the farming communities of Robertson, McGregor and Bonnievale in the Western Cape, and murdered an elderly couple, was sentenced to two life imprisonment terms and an additional 58 years, for his violent crime spree which lasted for more than a year.
The Western Cape High Court found Jeffrey Thompson guilty of 15 charges, including murder, assault, theft, housebreaking and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
According to National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila, the crime spree started in September 2017 when he struck his 31-year-old girlfriend, Magdalene Willemien Simons with an empty beer bottle in the face, seriously injuring her.
"Her only sin was enquiring about a R200 note she left in the home earlier. After that incident, the accused broke into several farmhouses, stealing items worth thousands of rands," Ntabazalila said.
"He was so daring in his crimes to an extent, that at some properties he would break in while the owners were inside, threatening them with an axe and taking their belongings."
Thompson was arrested on December 10, 2018, but was released on bail by the Robertson Magistrate's Court. Two days later, he hacked an elderly couple to death.
'Hacked them with an axe'
On December 12, 2018, he entered the art studio of Elsie Sophia Wilhemina Steyn, Ntabazalila said.
"He watched Steyn and her husband, Petrus Paul Steyn, going about their business in the main house. He slept in their bed in the art studio and he gained entry into the main property the following morning.
"He found the elderly couple asleep and, without provocation, he hacked them with an axe. Elsie, 71, and Petrus, 64, died because of the axe wounds to the head. He took several valuable items from their house, packed them in their vehicle and drove off."
Police found the abandoned vehicle in another area of McGregor and he was subsequently rearrested on December 16 last year.
This was not his first brush with the law, as prosecutor Lenro Badenhorst told the court.
Thompson had reoffended after he was handed a suspended sentence on March 29, 2017, following a conviction on two counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm that were committed in McGregor.
"He breached the conditions of the suspended sentence when he committed further offences involving serious violence," Badenhorst told the court.
"He carefully planned his attack on Elsie and Petrus by watching them through the window in the art studio.
NPA welcomes sentence
"He could see their movement and determined when they went to sleep that night. They are survived by their three daughters and extended families who are still severely traumatised by the horrific murders. The children are receiving trauma counselling, while others are seeking psychological counselling."
Thompson was handed 58 years and six months direct imprisonment for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, six counts of housebreaking with intent to steal, housebreaking with intent to rob, robbery with aggravating circumstances, robbery, and attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.
He also received two life sentences for the murders. The court ordered that all the sentences run concurrently with the life sentences. It further declared Thompson unfit to possess a firearm.
"The NPA welcomes the sentence, as it indicates the institution's determination to fight gender-based violence, using all its available resources and capacity following the assault of Magdalene Willemien Simons," Ntabazalila said.
"It also signifies the state's intention to protect farming communities and ensure that appropriate sentences are handed down to those who terrorise those communities."