14/02/2007 19:14 - (SA)
Pietermaritzburg - Spectators listened aghast on Wednesday as a 15-year-old told the High Court that he and a companion strangled his 86-year-old benefactor who paid for his schooling and employed his mother.
The youth said that on Sunday they decided to kill Mooi River woman Rita Burdett, one of the founders of Treverton Preparatory School, to rob her of her car.
She lived in a house on the school grounds and although she retired from the school in 1990 she took an active part in its functioning, her church and the Women's Institute.
Her death left a void in the community, friends said.
Police were told that her car was being driven erratically and the police found her body in the boot of her car at Nottingham Road when the two youths were taken in for questioning and then arrested.
A post-mortem found she had died of asphyxia due to strangulation, although both youths said she was still alive when they wrapped her in a duvet and put her in the boot of her car which they drove away.
Defence counsel Zeera Fareed read out the confessions of both the accused to the court.
The 15-year-old's statement read: "...about 12 o'clock... I told accused No 1 to accompany me to her home. She was well-known to me as my mother was employed by her.
"We both planned to kill her and steal her car... we entered her home and found her seated... accused No 1 covered her face with a cushion cover. We picked up an electrical cord and we both throttled her with it.
"She was still alive when we took a duvet and wrapped her up in it... we did not know what to do with the body.
Refuelled the car
"We drove to Underberg... we realised we were running out of petrol... we drove to the house of a friend, Bongani Nzimande... we picked him up along with an empty container to buy petrol.
"We proceeded to Mount West garage... parked some distance from the garage while Bongani bought petrol and we refuelled the car.
"We experienced mechanical problems... while we were on the side of the road we were approached by the police.
"They became suspicious after we tried to mislead them... they took us to Nottingham Road police station... we were questioned and the police opened the boot and discovered her body.
"I acted in concert and in the furtherance of a common purpose to kill her and steal her vehicle.
Both expressed remorse
"I admit that I acted intentionally and unlawfully and that my actions have brought great pain and suffering to people, especially my mother. I am remorseful for my actions."
The 17-year-old's confession is similar and he also expressed remorse.
Judge President Vuka Tshabalala convicted the two of murder and aggravated robbery.
State advocate Candy Kander said that a probation officer must prepare a pre-sentencing report on the two and the case was adjourned to April 16. Both accused are to remain in custody.