10 murder cases that gripped SA in 2017

28 December 2017 - 08:00 By TimesLIVE

It's been a grizzly year in court for South Africans with murder trials bombarding the court.

From a young man accused of killing his family, to toxic lovers and even cannibalism, there are 10 murder cases that gripped the country this year.

1. Triple axe murder trial: The Van Breda case

Henri van Breda, who's been on trial for the murder of his parents and older brother and the attempted murder of his younger sister in their Stellenbosch home in 2015, will hear the judge's verdict next year.

For those who have sat in court for all of the 63 days‚ it played like an unedited film – lurching from a gripping drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat on the one day‚ to the endless detail in the fine print of textbooks on the next.

Van Breda will remain out on bail until the court hears closing argument in February. Judgment is expected to be delivered in March.

2. Killer husband: Jayde Panayiotou murder

Christopher Panayiotou was sentenced to life behind bars in the Port Elizabeth High Court for the murder of his wife, Jayde. The Uitenhage teacher‚ 29‚ went missing from outside her home in Kabega Park‚ Port Elizabeth‚ on April 21 2015. Her body was found in KwaNobuhle the next day.

Judge Dayalin Chetty found her husband guilty of masterminding the murder, while hitman Sinethemba Nemembe‚ 28‚ was found guilty of murder and robbery with aggravated circumstances‚ and Zolani Sibeko‚ 35‚ was found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.

Port Elizabeth businessman Christopher Panayiotou was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Jayde. His accomplice Sinethemba Nemembe was found guilty of murder and robbery aggravating, while Zolani Sibeko was found guilty of conspiracy to murder.
Port Elizabeth businessman Christopher Panayiotou was found guilty of the murder of his wife, Jayde. His accomplice Sinethemba Nemembe was found guilty of murder and robbery aggravating, while Zolani Sibeko was found guilty of conspiracy to murder.
Image: Eugene Coetzee/The Herald

3. Toxic love: Karabo Mokoena murder

The trial of Sandile Mantsoe‚ alleged to have murdered and burnt the remains of his girlfriend Karabo Mokoena‚ will only be heard in March next year.

Mokoena’s remains were discovered in a ditch in Lyndhurst‚ burnt beyond recognition‚ on April 29. Mantsoe initially denied seeing her‚ but later confessed to police that he had returned home and found Mokoena dead in his flat.

Murder accused 27-year-old Sandile Mantsoe during his first appearance at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court for allegedly killing his girlfriend Karabo Mokoena on May 12, 2017.
Murder accused 27-year-old Sandile Mantsoe during his first appearance at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court for allegedly killing his girlfriend Karabo Mokoena on May 12, 2017.
Image: Gallo Images / Sunday World / Veli Nhlapo

4. 'Callous, cruel': Murder of Franziska Blöchliger

The man who “viciously‚ callously‚ and cruelly” murdered Franziska Blöchliger‚ will in all likelihood spend the rest of his life in prison.

Howard Oliver‚ 28‚ was found guilty of raping‚ robbing and murdering the 16-year-old in Tokai‚ Cape Town‚ last year. Judge Kate Savage handed down a life sentence for murder‚ a life sentence for two counts of rape‚ and 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances. Oliver is now appealing his sentence on the basis that he cooperated with the court from the start and "didn’t waste the court’s time".

5. Murder in Eskom: Thembisile Yende murder

Thembisile Yende's body was found at Eskom's Pieterboth sub station in Springs 10 days after her family had reported her missing. A fellow employee, David Ngwenya‚ allegedly killed Yende because he feared that she would blow the whistle on his alleged dealings with a copper cable theft syndicate in copper. 

Ngwenya will appear in the Springs Magistrate's Court on January 31 for further investigation.

Thembisile Yende
Thembisile Yende
Image: Facebook/Lucia Thembisile Yende

6. Cannibalism in Estcourt: 'Tired of eating human flesh'

Traditional healer Nino Mbatha rocked Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal, when he walked into the local police station and confessed that he was tired of eating human flesh.

Seven men were initially arrested with charges withdrawn against three due to insufficient evidence. Mbatha, 32, Sithembiso Sithole, 31, 32, Lungisani Magubane, 30, and Khayelihle Lamula, 32, face charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. It has been alleged that they raped, killed and cut up the body of a woman, which they then consumed. The suspects will appear in court again on January 25.

Men accused of eating human flesh appeared in the Estcourt Magistrate's Court .
Men accused of eating human flesh appeared in the Estcourt Magistrate's Court .
Image: Thuli Dlamini

7. Murder in Cape Town: The death of Gabriela Alban

Guatemalan Diego Novella stands accused of murdering his American girlfriend, Gabriela Kabrins Alban at the Camps Bay Retreat boutique hotel in July 2015. Novella and Alban had been a couple at the time of her murder. Alban was strangled and sustained blunt force trauma to the face.

Diego Novella from Guatemala.
Diego Novella from Guatemala.
Image: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach

8. Murder or suicide? The Susan Rohde case

The defence has argued she wanted to die, but State pathologist Dr Deidre Abrahams has “no doubt” Susan Rohde’s suicide by hanging was faked by someone trying to cover up her murder.

Her husband‚ property mogul Jason Rohde‚ is on trial for her murder in the Cape Town High Court. The court has heard the chilling WhatsApp exchanges between the couple and his mistress Jolene Alterskye, testimony from witnesses as well as how she spent her final hours.

The trial started in October and the state has only called seven witnesses from a list of about 70. The case will continue in February.

9. Night of terror: Hannah Cornelius

Student Hannah Cornelius and her friend‚ Cheslin Marsh were accosted and kidnapped by a gang of men while they sat in her car in Stellenbosch. Marsh was stoned, stabbed, and left for dead while the group drove Cornelius to a paintball range‚ where they raped and killed her.

The men then reportedly used Cornelius’ stolen car to rob two women in separate incidents. Vernon Witbooi‚ Geraldo Parsons‚ Nashville Julius and Eben van Niekerk are facing 10 charges including murder‚ attempted murder‚ kidnapping‚ rape‚ and robbery with aggravated circumstances. The case has been postponed to January 25.

After an identity parade was performed, the four men accused of murdering Hannah Cornelius in May 2017 were photographed for the first time.

10. Majakaneng murder mystery: Tebogo Ndlovu

Matthew Benson will appear in court next year. He has been charged with murder and attempted murder following Tebogo Ndlovu’s mysterious disappearance.

Ndlovu was last seen on August 2‚ when he and two friends were shot at while stealing oranges from a farm in Mooinooi owned by Benson's parents. The case was postponed to January 26 in order to obtain a High Court date. Benson will remain in custody until his next court appearance. North West police are also offering up to R100‚000 for any information that might lead to Ndlovu's whereabouts.

Matthew Benson appeared at the Brits Magistrate's Court on Friday for murder and attempted murder linked to the disappearance of Tebogo Ndlovu.
Matthew Benson appeared at the Brits Magistrate's Court on Friday for murder and attempted murder linked to the disappearance of Tebogo Ndlovu.
Image: BAFANA NZIMANDE

Overturned and lengthened: Maqubela and Pistorius at the SCA

The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) this year overturned Thandi Maqubela's murder conviction, finding that her husband, acting judge Patrick Maqubela, might have died of natural causes. Dubbed the 'black widow' during her trial, she must still serve her sentence for fraud and the forging Maqubela's signature on a will that declared her the sole beneficiary of his estate. However, she may be eligible for parole. 

Meanwhile Oscar Pistorius’s sentence for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp was increased to 13 years and five months after the SCA found his original six-year sentence trivialised the seriousness of the offence. Judge Willie Seriti said Pistorius had failed to explain why he fired the fatal shots and his testimony was “vacillating and untruthful”.

Thandi Maqubela also known as the "black widow" appeared at the Cape Town High Court on March 31, 2015 in Cape Town.
Thandi Maqubela also known as the "black widow" appeared at the Cape Town High Court on March 31, 2015 in Cape Town.
Image: Gallo Images / The Times / Esa Alexander
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