A South African gardener who pleaded guilty to murdering his elderly employer with a hammer has had his life sentence reduced because he was forced to be her sex slave.
Gardener Gibson Lion Zwelakhe, 50, admitted to murdering his employer, 73-year-old retiree Destiny Geyser Newberry, in Carletonville, South Africa in 2019.
The Oberholzer Regional Court handed Zwelakhe a life sentence in 2019, but it is expected to be reduced after he made a successful appeal last Friday (17th September) on the grounds that being treated like a sex slave drove him to commit the crime.
According to local media, Zwelakhe was sat in the back seat of Newberry’s Chevrolet Spark when he pulled out a hammer and started beating the 73-year-old pensioner.
Newberry managed to pull over and get out of the car, but Zwelakhe quickly chased her down and continued to beat her until she was dead.
Her body was later found by the authorities dumped in an open field.
Tienus Barnard, Newberry’s son-in-law, said following the trial in 2019: “I forgive you because that is what I learnt in the Bible. What you did is not right and I hope you go on your knees to ask the Lord’s forgiveness for what you have done.”
He added: “Our family are not light switches that can just be switched on and off and can thus not just forget what happened. We are going through a very difficult time.”
After being handed a life sentence the gardener submitted an appeal with the Pretoria High Court on the grounds that the Regional Court had failed to consider the fact that he was treated like a sex slave by the victim as a compelling circumstance.
News site IOL reports that Zwelakhe told the court: “I was tired of being her sex slave.”
He went on: “She was making it difficult for me to earn a living as a gardener at the old age (home) as she was always demanding that I only go to her place, thereby costing me an income. I was resentful of the deceased.”
During the first trial, Magistrate Thelma Simpson rejected his explanation as “utter nonsense”, but Judge Vuyelwa Tlhapi of the High Court said that Simpson made a mistake when she ignored the defendant’s explanation.
Tlhapi said: “It is my view that the trial court failed to consider the reasons the appellant gave for the murder and apply the principles established when it assessed whether substantial and compelling circumstances were present or not.”
The judge added: “It is my view that the learned magistrate failed to assess the possibility that the appellant felt like a ‘sex slave’; that the deceased’s decision to stop paying for the sex while making demands for more sex impacted on him and made it difficult for him to earn money.”
Tlhapi concluded that a more appropriate sentence for the crime would be a 25-year sentence as opposed to life imprisonment.
The life sentence meant that Zwelakhe would have been eligible for parole only after 25 years, but now he will be eligible at an unspecified earlier point.