February 14 2005 at 01:08PM
It was a murder that shocked and outraged the close-knit community of Mtunzini. Nearly two years later, two young men - both first offenders - were sent to prison for life.
A third accused, a juvenile who also had a clean record, was jailed for an effective 17 years by the Circuit High Court sitting in the Zululand coastal village on Friday.
Sikhumbuzo Mthethwa, Sicelo Mpungose and a 17-year-old youth sat in the dock with their heads bowed as Judge Leona Theron found them guilty of the murder of Allan Howarth, 47, and the attempted murder of his wife, Linda, during a robbery.
The couple had fallen asleep watching television in their Siyayi Drive simplex on the night of April 11 2003 when they were attacked.
Howarth was brutally bludgeoned with a hammer and died in hospital six days later. His wife was stabbed in the chest with a long knife and suffered other injuries.
The intruders, who had gained entry through an open patio door, made off with cellphones, sound equipment and a gold chain.
Deterrence, retribution and prevention were paramount in the case, Prosecutor Dorian Paver said when asking the court to hand down life sentences to Mthethwa and Mpungose, who were 18 when the offences were committed.
Theron said it was a sad reflection on South African society that the most violent, heinous and brutal of offences were committed by young people.
In the Howarths' case, the inescapable inference was that the three accused, who lived with their parents near Mtunzini, must have prowled the streets of the village that night looking for easy targets.
As a result of their actions a person's life had been taken. And the wounds and scars inflicted on Linda Howarth were not just skin deep. It was clear from her testimony, during which she broke down a number of times, that she was still battling to come to terms with the attack, the judge said.
Dressed in black, Howarth, who had flown out from the United Kingdom, where she now lives, sat in the public gallery throughout the week-long trial.
Although there was a strong suspicion of his involvement, a fourth accused, Khulekhani Mbatha, 22, was acquitted because of insufficient evidence.
This article was originally published on page 5 of The Mercury on February 14, 2005