Mahikeng – Three men found guilty of murder, armed robbery and rape were each sentenced to 25 years imprisonment by Moretele Municipality's Temba High Court on Wednesday.
Sphiwe Matlala, 35, Joseph Vusi Mdluli, 36, and Paul Sello Mashapa, 37, were arrested in November 2006 in Winterveld, northwest of Pretoria, by the Hawks.
Local police Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso told News24 that the four men had hijacked a Toyota which was transporting two school girls, and had shot the driver dead after driving with him and the passengers to a nearby location.
Rikhotso said the two girls were raped before the suspects drove off in the car. The car was later tracked down to Winterveld, following a tip-off.
"The suspects started shooting at the police, one police officer got injured and his state cell phone and firearm were taken by the suspects," said Rikhotso in a statement.
There were initially four suspects, but one had been killed in a shootout between the suspects and the police, while the other three were arrested, Rikhotso told News24.
North West Hawks head Major General Linda Mbana applauded the investigating officers for their work which had led to a conviction.