Life sentence for gardener who murdered pensioner

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The Durban High Court sentenced Mzwakhe France Mbulawa (45) to life imprisonment for the murder and robbery of Shirley Ester James (79) in August 2019.

James lived alone in her home in Newlands West and Mbulawa worked for her on a casual basis as a gardener.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson in KZN, Natasha Kara, said on the day of the incident, he went to James’ house as usual and at some point, he attacked her.

“He bound her and killed her. He stole various items from her home including cellphones, jewellery, commercial cards and household items. Mbulawa returned to the scene the next day to take more things.”

Kara said James’ body was discovered a few days later. The post-mortem results found manual strangulation and blunt force head injury to be the cause of her death.

Mbulawa was arrested after police traced the sim card of James’ phone. Almost all of the stolen items were found in his house.

In aggravation of sentence, Kara said senior state advocate Denardo Macdonald led the testimony of James’ niece, Natacia Kaylan.

 Kaylan said that her aunt was an ex-school principal who had a vested interest in uplifting the community. She was a dedicated church goer and avid traveller who had trusted Mbulawa by giving him a job.

Kara said the NPA welcomes the conviction and sentence.

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