Cape Town - The killers of Afrikaans author Winnie Rust should face life imprisonment, the State argued in the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday.
Prosecutor Monwabisi Mabiya submitted that this should be especially applicable to Nigel Plaatjies, a promising young athlete who Rust had been supporting financially since childhood.
"Accused One [Nigel] is no different to most young people in the country – talented, but from a difficult background. He found someone who believed in him and his talent, who gave him access to opportunities," Mabiya told Judge Elize Steyn during sentencing arguments.
Nigel’s mother Lien had worked for Rust's daughter, as well as in Rust's home, and the author had known him since he was a little boy.
Rust had been paying for Nigel's sports activities and school fees since Grade 7. He was a regular visitor to her home and she had often helped him with his homework, even paying for a tutor when he was struggling with maths.
Nigel and his uncle Johannes were convicted in December of robbing and murdering Rust in her home in Uitsig, Wellington, on May 11, 2016.
Steyn found that the two had acted together when they committed the crime, despite Nigel's claim that he had been forced by Johannes, who is his mother's brother and who has a string of convictions to his name.
Mabiya said the fact that Rust was a respected resident involved in community upliftment should be considered, together with the fact that she was elderly.
Neither Nigel nor Johannes opted to take the court into their confidence during trial proceedings by taking to the stand, and only Johannes entered the witness box to present his circumstances to the court during sentencing, Mabiya pointed out.
Yasmine Rajap, acting for Nigel, argued that her client had been a model citizen and scholar before the murder, committed when he was only 18 years old and "youthful and immature".
Probation officer Katrina Moses had testified that Nigel had shown remorse, but was not an emotional person.
"My submission to the fact that he didn’t get into the box to testify during sentencing proceedings is because he is ashamed of what he had done. The court should see that as a token of his remorse," Rajap said.
She insisted that her client had been influenced by his uncle, and further pointed out that Nigel was a first offender.
Advocate Ken Klopper, for Johannes, said that, while his client was "not an angel", his crimes were limited to those involving dishonesty and, while he had been convicted of assault before, he was not a violent criminal.
Johannes had maintained his version of events throughout – that he had only been involved in "shopping" with Rust’s stolen cards – and he had shown remorse, which Judge Steyn translated to mean: "I am sorry for you, but it’s not my fault."
Sentencing is expected on March 14.
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