December 08 2009 at 09:02AM
"These men have destroyed my family."
This was the reaction of Jerome Lithins, minutes after his wife Pat's killers, Alfred Phahla, Rusty Lekoko Swana and David Maditsi, were sentenced to life for the murder of his wife in December 2006.
Jerome and his son Jesse are deaf, and according to the evidence before the court, both relied on Pat to communicate with customers and suppliers for their chocolate business.
The killers were also sentenced to five years for kidnapping, 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and 15 years for the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
'They knew there was money in the house'
The sentences will run concurrently.
In passing sentence, Judge Lucy Mailula said the murder and robbery were pre-planned and premeditated, adding that the three men and two of their accomplices, who were not apprehended, held three women hostage in a tiny room in the domestic workers' quarters and waited for the Lithins family to open their house the next day.
"These women could not alert anyone about their predicament. One of the men stood sentry, while the four men accosted Jesse Lithins, who was in the car. He was forced into the house, and that's when the assailants met his father. The assailants manhandled Jesse and his father and forced them to lie on the ground.
"The assailants were aware that their victims were hard of hearing. One of them indicated with his hands that they should keep quiet. They had inside information. They knew there was money in the house," said Judge Mailula.
The killers travelled all the way from Mamelodi to Paulshof, north of Joburg.
After killing Pat, the robbers searched Jerome and removed a sum of about R11 000 from his pockets and fled in his vehicle, a BMW. The items have not been recovered.
"There is no reason why the deceased should have been killed in that manner. She was not armed and posed no danger to the assailants," said Judge Mailula.
The judge expressed outrage particularly at the fact that the killers were harsh on their victims, even though they had co-operated fully with their attackers.
"The conduct of the assailants had a negative impact on the victim's family. She was an important person in their life. She was the nucleus of the family. She was a good mother who helped her son with his school work.
"The son has not been able to continue with his studies due to the effect the mother's death has on him. The businesses have since suffered.
"All five assailants actively participated in the commission of the offence. They are equally and morally blameworthy," Judge Mailula said.
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Star on December 08, 2009