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AN ESIGODINI man who raped his neighbour’s 15-year-old orphaned granddaughter before crushing her head with a big stone to conceal the crime, was yesterday sentenced to life in jail.Twoboy Phiri, 36, of Vukuzenzele village in Esikhoveni lured Simangaliso Ncube to a stream on the pretext that he wanted to give her vegetables from his garden. He tried to feign mental illness by claiming that he had a history of mental illness inherited from his late mother to escape trial.
Bulawayo High Court judge, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, convicted Phiri of murder with actual intent and rape. He sentenced him to life imprisonment for murder and 20 years for rape.
In his judgment, Justice Mathonsi said although Phiri in defence claimed that he could not recollect what happened citing mental illness, it was clear from the evidence that he was lying. According to a report by psychiatric doctors, Phiri is mentally stable.
“The state witnesses gave their evidence in a truthful and credible manner and we’ve no reason to doubt them. Regrettably, Phiri in his defence claimed that he has history of mental illness, but he failed dismally to convince the court because he was examined by two doctors who concluded that he was mentally stable. He was actually not truthful and the issue of his purported mental illness was clearly an afterthought,” said Justice Mathonsi.
The judge said although there was no direct evidence linking Phiri to the crimes, the court relied on circumstantial evidence given that Phiri was the only person who was last seen with Simangaliso.
“Simangaliso was at her grandmother’s home minding her business when Phiri came and lured her to the bush under the guise that he wanted to offer her vegetables from his garden. The girl was actually reluctant to accompany Phiri but he managed to persuade her and in our view it can only be him who raped and killed Simangaliso and accordingly we find him guilty of murder with actual intent and rape,” ruled Justice Mathonsi.
In passing the sentence, the judge described Phiri as a ruthless sex pervert who unashamedly raped his victim before killing her to conceal evidence.
“You preyed on a vulnerable and defenceless young girl by turning her into a sex slave before killing her in the most primitive and callous manner. Society looks up to the courts to protect the girl child from ruthless sex perverts like you and there’s therefore a need to clear our communities of such people by sending then to jail for lengthy periods,” ruled Justice Mathonsi.
Prosecuting, Thompson Hove, said on August 27, 2010, Phiri went to his neighbour’s homestead and found Simangaliso Ncube playing with her siblings.
The court heard that Phiri asked the girl to accompany him to his garden on the pretext that he wanted to collect vegetables for her grandmother who was attending a wedding ceremony in the area.
The girl complied and when they got to a stream along Jeqe River, Phiri grabbed the girl and pushed her to the ground. He then forced her to lie on her back and raped her. After committing the crime, the court heard that Phiri throttled the girl. He then crushed the girl’s head with a big stone.
Phiri placed the stone on the girl’s chest and waited for a few minutes to make sure that she was dead before he fled from the scene, leaving Simangaliso lying in blood.
Simangaliso’s grandmother, Gladys Masuku, 73, in her testimony, said she became suspicious and worried when her granddaughter did not return home.
“I informed my neighbours after my granddaughter went missing and a search was conducted leading to the discovery of her body two days later and she was undressed and her pair of panties was found a few metres away,” she said.
Phiri was apprehended by villagers while hiding in a nearby mountain leading to his arrest.
Phiri’s lawyer Simbarashe Chivaura concurred with the state that aggravating factors outweighed mitigatory ones.