18/02/2008 21:52 - (SA)
Pretoria - A High Court judge ruled on Monday that a murderer and robber did not deserve life imprisonment because of his disadvantaged background and poor schooling.
Acting Judge Legodi Phatudi sentenced 35-year-old Jeffrey Mogatla of Mamelodi East to 40 years' imprisonment, of which he effectively has to serve about 19 years.
He was found guilty of the December 2000 murder and robbery of Mariana Bothma, at the time the director of the old Technikon Pretoria.
Bothma was shot dead in the driveway of her Lynnwood home, shortly after the flying squad arrived at the house to investigate a robbery in progress and a shootout ensued.
Phatudi emphasised the seriousness of types of crimes, which became more prevalent every week.
However, he said Mogatla's age, the fact that he had children and four mouths to feed, came from a disadvantaged background, never went to high school and was unskilled constituted mitigating circumstances.
The judge said Mogatla could be rehabilitated in jail and one day enjoy a life with his family.
He found that Mogatla had been part of a gang of three men who broke into the home of Bothma and her friend, Anneline Stroebel, held both women at gunpoint and robbed them of a handbag, jewellery and a cellphone.
The court accepted forensic evidence that the bullet which had entered Bothma's chin, killing her almost instantly, had been fired by one of the robbers and not by the police, as suggested by defence counsel.
The robbers also had fired shots inside the house.
Mogatla was arrested at the end of 2006 on the strength of fingerprint evidence.
Print showed he was part of gang
Judge Phatudi said Mogatla's evidence that he had not been involved in the murder or robbery and that his thumb print was found at the house only because he had previously worked there as a gardener was not reasonably, possibly true.
Mogatla's fingerprint was found on the inside of a window frame where the robbers had gained entry into the house, which was indicative that he had been part of the gang that attacked the two women.
Stroebel, who earlier testified how she had tried to fight off the attackers with her crutch, expressed relief that one of her friend's attackers would at least spend time behind bars.
She only hoped he would also identify his co-perpetrators.
Bothma had been a remarkable friend, who moved in with her when she contracted cancer and became paralysed. She said Bothma, ironically, always had championed the cause of the disadvantaged when she was alive.