'She sees your face every time she closes her eyes' - magistrate tells robber

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Mbombela - A magistrate has shown little mercy for an armed robber who held up a couple at gunpoint while he was on parole.

Magistrate Vanessa Joubert described the robbery of the Mpumalanga businesswoman as so harrowing that it had changed her into a fearful person.

Hazyview businesswoman, Isabel van Heerden and her partner were robbed at gunpoint by four men at her home on August 31, 2011, shortly after arriving home from work.

"The robbery was the second in the same month. The fact that her face was at the receiving end of a firearm, left her emotionally hurt, so immensely she no longer is the same person she was before the robbery," Joubert told the accused.

Teddy Sthandwa Gwambe, 28, pleaded guilty to robbery with aggravating circumstances when he appeared in the Nelspruit Regional Court last week.

He was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment, of which four years were suspended for five years. The sentence will run concurrently with the 20 years sentence he is currently serving.

In an affidavit, Gwambe said: "After we waited for the complainant to close her business, we followed her to her home. After forcing the house door open, we threatened the family with firearms and robbed them of their belongings such as laptop, house keys and jewellery. I now understand that my actions were unlawful and punishable by law."

Gwambe, who has a previous conviction for armed robbery, for which he was serving 20 years, asked the court to have mercy on him and pleaded for a lesser sentence. He was on parole when he held up Van Heerden.

'You have not learnt from your mistakes'

Joubert said that Gwambe pleaded guilty because there was strong evidence against him.

"Your remorse must not be interpreted as pity. The fact is you were placed against the wall which resulted in you to change your plea. You committed a very serious crime. There was chaos, and the complainant said as she faced the firearm pointed to her face, she kept thinking if you’ll pull the trigger," said Joubert.

The magistrate said the victim was lucky the firearm had not gone off.

"She sees your face every time she closes her eyes. She said she will never forget your faces. She no longer carries valuable things and jewellery, and she no longer feels safe, even in the comfort of her own home," said Joubert.

The magistrate said there were no compelling and substantial circumstances for her to give him a lesser sentence.

"You have not learnt from your mistakes, sir. You have not changed your life," she said.

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