Relatives of murdered Danielle Esterhuizen have paid a floral tribute to her at the Johannesburg High Court where her killers are to be sentenced. (Mario van de Wall, Beeld)
26/06/2008 23:07 - (SA)
Herman Scholtz, Beeld
Johannesburg - Two of five-year-old Danielle Esterhuizen's killers were released from prison just days before her murder.
The Johannesburg High Court also heard on Thursday that the shooter David Nqomane, 31, was a serial offender.
He was previously deported to Mozambique but returned to South Africa and was found guilty on charges of robbery in 1998.
After he had served part of his three-year sentence, Nqomane was out on parole when he was found guilty of attempted robbery in 2000. He was sent to prison again, this time for five years.
In 2001 he was found guilty of assault but received only a warning.
It was not known how much of his second sentence he served but he was later caught again on a charge which was not described in court.
He was detained but released from Krugersdorp Prison five days before Danielle's murder.
The second accused Thabang Jane, 26, was released on December 1, 2006 from the same prison where he had been awaiting a court hearing.
The investigating officer Inspector Peet Venter said it was not clear for what offence Jane had been detained because did not have a criminal record.
After Danielle's death Nqomane, Jane and Tsakane Sithole, 25, were found guilty of murder, four charges of attempted murder and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Danielle was shot while sitting on her mother's lap in a robbery at Riebeeck Lake in Randfontein on December 20, 2006.
Fantine Nel, who was the psychologist of Danielle's parents Anél and Diederick, testified during the sentence hearing that the couple's lives had revolved around Danielle.
"Diederick's job is under threat because he experiences problems when concentrating and they both suffer from post-traumatic stress.
They involuntarily see images of their little girl with her blonde hair, the bullet hole in her head and the blood."
The court room was packed with friends and family, some of whom audibly sobbed during the hearing.
All three murderers sat emotionlessly listening and repeatedly looked at the roof and walls.
'Is that an excuse?'
The defence claimed that the men's ages should be considered as mitigating factors.
Judge H Sadulker responded by asking, "Do you call that young?"
"And is that an excuse? We all live under house arrest in this country," she said.
State prosecutor, Jacqueline Steyn, asked for the minimum sentence of life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for each of the four attempted murder charges, three years for the illegal possession of a firearm and 12 months for the illegal possession of ammunition.
The Esterhuizens said outside the courtroom that they were a little disappointed that the sentencing had been postponed until Tuesday but that they were not frustrated.
Venter testified that the sentence hearing was important for the family.
"They said to me, 'Only now is Danielle dead.
"Now there is nothing more we can or have to do for her."