Leigh Matthews: Fear and shock as Donovan Moodley's parole process begins to unfold

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Donovan Moodley (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Bongiwe Gumede)
Donovan Moodley (Photo by Gallo Images / Foto24 / Bongiwe Gumede)
  • Leigh Matthews' killer Donovan Moodley is up for parole after serving only 15 years of his life sentence.
  • Matthews' family is expected to make representations on Friday.
  • The family says they are trying to make sense of how their daughter's killer is being given an opportunity to go free.

Fear, grief and shock, coupled with disillusionment in the justice system.

These are the emotions that Leigh Matthews' family have grappled with as her killer, Donovan Moodley, is up for parole. 

Despite being slapped with a life sentence for murder, and having only served just over 15 years, the parole process for Moodley is expected to get underway on Friday with representations made by the family. 

Moodley abducted Leigh from Bond University, Sandton, in 2004. He held her captive and demanded ransom money from her family. 

After receiving R50 000 from Leigh's father, Rob Matthews, he shot her three times instead of letting her go. 

In 2005, he pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping and extortion. Moodley was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for kidnapping, and 10 years for extortion.

Now, less than two decades later, he will no doubt fight for his freedom. 

READ | Leigh Matthews murder: Father says family 'still in limbo' with 'no answers forthcoming

The very thought of Moodley merely appearing before a parole board terrifies the Matthews family, leaving them despondent as they attempt to make sense of how their daughter's killer is being given an opportunity to go free. 

"We haven't got closure. We got justice in a sense that he was given the harshest sentence in the country. At that point, we thought we had justice. And now it's slipped into an hourglass and it feels less and less like justice," Matthews told News24. 

"The fact that the parole hearing takes place now is a travesty of justice. I wonder if the offender's constitutional rights are stronger than innocent victim's rights."

No remorse, only lies 

Matthews' feelings are borne out by the fact that Moodley has spent most of his incarceration trying to get out of prison through various appeals, and even a bid to have a retrial. 

On top of his attempts to have his conviction and sentence overturned, Moodley has never been honest about what happened, changing his story several times throughout the years. 

Let alone being granted parole, Matthews does not believe that Moodley should have even been given a parole hearing in the first place. 

"You should not be given a parole hearing if you are still fighting your case and denying culpability, and keep on changing your story.

"Moodley had no time in jail to sit and contemplate the deeds that he undertook and the impact of those deeds on society and victims.

He said:

There has been no indication that there is any sign of remorse or understanding of what he has done. He spent his time trying to get out of prison.

In one of his bids to have a retrial, Moodley even claimed that he had not murdered Matthews, but had been framed by dangerous people. 

However, he was never forthcoming with information that could lead to other arrests.

Fear and anguish 

Matthews said his family feared the possibility of Moodley being released on parole.

Leigh's sister and mother were petrified that Moodley would come for them, Matthews added, pointing out that Moodley had threatened his wife before. 

"He is a dangerous guy and he shouldn't be let out.

"My daughter would leave the country, and my wife and I fear for our lives if he is released.

"She [Leigh's sister] told me categorically that she fears this man and will leave the country if he gets out. This is another level of victimisation for us."

Questions need to be answered 

Matthews said that, even before a parole hearing is considered, Moodley needs to answer specific questions, so that his daughter can get the complete justice that she deserves. 

These questions include: 

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 Walkersville?

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?

In handing down the sentence in 2005, Judge Joop Labuschagne found that, on the totality of the evidence, Moodley must have had help from someone and that he was clearly protecting this person or persons. 

Moodley had also lied in his plea statement about where he killed Leigh, asserting that he shot her where her body was found.

However, the evidence showed that she was murdered elsewhere and kept in refrigeration for 10 days, before her body was dumped. 

Matthews told News24 that because Moodley withheld information, it showed that he was not remorseful. 

Parole process 

The Department of Correctional Services confirmed to News24 that the parole process will begin on Friday when the Matthews family will make representations. The system will also allow the offender to make representations.

"What we are able to confirm is that there will be an oral representation to the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board. This relates to a matter involving offender Donovan Stanley Moodley scheduled for Friday, 21 January 2022.

"South Africa does not have parole hearings, but representations that can be done either in writing or through oral means," department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo said on Thursday afternoon.

Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) - who have been monitoring the matter closely - has urged the department's parole board to very seriously consider the seriousness of the crimes committed by Moodley.

ALSO READ | Leigh Matthews: No decision yet on parole for Moodley - Correctional services dept

"He is a diabolical, callous, calculated and cold-blooded murderer, who, 17 years later, has shown no remorse or rehabilitation. On what grounds could Mr Moodley be released? Remorse? Moodley's denial of the crimes and the ongoing court applications for release as recent as 2018 clearly show there has been no introspection/reflection on the violent crimes he committed," the organisation stated.

WMACA added that members of the Parole Board were accountable to the citizens of South Africa and that it intended campaigning extensively for openness, transparency and accountability in the parole process.

Nxumalo stressed that this was an internal process and that the department was concerned that an organisation was mobilising third parties to attend the process.

"It does concern the Department of Correctional Services that there is an organisation mobilising the media to attend to this internal process, and this organisation knows fully that third parties cannot participate nor attend. 

"This will create an unnecessary frenzy outside the main entrance as third parties, including the media, will not be allowed access," he said.

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