June 16 2009 at 07:18AM
By Kamini Padayachee
Monstrous and merciless.
That is how a Durban High Court judge described the murder and hijacking of beauty therapist Jennifer-Rae Hall before he sentenced one of the hijackers to life imprisonment on Monday.
Hall, 22, of Winston Park, Gillitts, was killed and her friend, Kate Flemming, was wounded when they were shot in a hijacking at Amanzimtoti on June 14 last year. Amy Lansdell, who was also in the car, was not injured. The car they were travelling in was stolen.
The three had been on their to a Scottburgh caravan park to watch the sardine run and had stopped to change drivers.
Sifundo Mkhize, 23, of Illovo township, near Amanzimtoti, was convicted of Hall's murder, and further charges of attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Mkhize had denied his involvement, saying he had been at home at the time.
In addition to the life sentence, Mkhize was also sentenced to 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and 10 years for attempted murder. These sentences would run concurrently with the life sentence. He would not be eligible for parole until he had served at least 25 years.
Judge Ronald McLaren said Sduduzo Madida, who was an accomplice after the crime, had been a good witness. Madida testified that he had seen Mkhize and another man in a white VW Polo on June 14. He, Mkhize and others had used the vehicle to go to a wedding at Gingindlovu later that day.
Madida had been granted indemnity against prosecution in return for his testimony.
While the State did not prove that Mkhize had shot Hall, the judge found that he had acted in common purpose with his accomplice, who fired the shots and who has not been arrested.
"The State proved the falsity of the alibi of (Mkhize). The accused and his co-assailant acted in common purpose to rob the victims," the judge said.
Judge McLaren said: "In a business area in Amanzimtoti, they literally pounced on their victims. The victims were not given the opportunity to surrender their property in exchange for their lives. The deceased (Hall) was shot in cold blood at close range before she was given an opportunity to hand over the keys to the car. This all happened in broad daylight. Society is disgusted by the wanton lawlessness and brutality of the assailants."
Surrounded by friends and supporters outside court, a tearful Lansdell said she was pleased with the sentence.
"I am glad that justice has been done and that it is over. We are happy with the sentence but it will never bring Jennifer back. It is also very sad that Jennifer's parents could not be here because her father is very ill."
Lansdell thanked the supporters who had attended the case, including a wheelchair-bound woman who had flown from Johannesburg to attend the trial because her husband had also been killed in a hijacking.
Speaking from London, Hall's brother, Justin, echoed Lansdell's sentiments. "It doesn't bring Jen back but he got what he deserved. I wish that I was there or that I could fly to be with my family. My mom just called me and told me he got a life sentence and started crying."
He said his family was considering hiring a private investigator to find Mkhize's accomplice.
This article was originally published on page 1 of The Mercury on June 16, 2009