Former Durban mayor's killer paroled

2010-07-15 20:10

Durban - The killer of former Durban mayor Mike Lipschitz has been released on parole after serving eight years of his 20-year sentence.

Gareth Thomas, who was 18 when he was arrested, was released from Durban Westville Prison on June 28.

Speaking to Sapa on Thursday afternoon, Thomas said he was a changed person.

“I am no longer the same old Gareth that people know. I have changed and I am happy to be out because I am going to contribute positively to people’s lives.”

Thomas said he had completed a degree in theology while in prison. He had one module left for his Bachelor of Commerce degree and had learnt to speak isiZulu fluently.

Prison officials said Thomas had been quietly paroled so his release would not attract media attention.

“The release of people like Gareth usually attracts a lot of media attention. It is clear that our bosses decided to hide it,” said the official, who did not want to be named.

Thomas pleaded guilty to killing Lipschitz on March 4 2002. The case attracted huge public attention.

'Good person'

During the trial, Thomas told the court he visited Lipschitz after snorting four "lines" of cocaine, taking four ecstasy tablets and three shots of whisky.

He told the court when he arrived at the former mayor's home, Lipschitz apparently requested a massage and stripped below the waist.

He said when he met Lipschitz he was paid to wash his car and give him massages. Thomas said during the massage he grabbed a brick and struck Lipschitz on the back of the head.

Thomas admitted he had intended to kill him.

After the murder, he took R900, a cellphone and a set of keys.

Thomas was sentenced to 20 years behind bars for the murder and six months for theft. The sentences ran concurrently.

The correctional services department was not immediately available to comment about Thomas' release.

Describing his experiences in prison, he said he had become a religious person.

“If you enter the prison you have to choose what you want to be. You can choose to be a worse person or choose to be a good person.”

He said he would work closely with his priest in Chatsworth.

Lipschitz’s brother, Stanley Lipschitz said he was not aware that Thomas had been released.

'"We prefer not to comment at this stage but we really appreciate you telling us that he has been released," he said.

Lipschitz was a mayor between 1993 and 1996 and was replaced by the current mayor, Obed Malaba.