Moodley's retrial bid fails, but NPA still on the case

Convicted killer Donovan Moodley’s application for a retrial has been dismissed in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg, but the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) will continue to investigate the possibility that accomplices were involved in the murder of Leigh Matthews.

NPA spokesperson Mthunzi Mhaga refused to comment on whether investigations would follow up on Moodley’s claims, made during his retrial application, that he was coerced by three drug dealers.

Last week Moodley made a dramatic return to court, claiming that his confession had been forced out of him, and that police rigged the evidence. He had asked for a “retrial” but no such remedy exists in South African criminal procedure.

Delivering his judgment on Wednesday, Judge Joop Labuschagne said Moodley’s supposed “true story” of the events surrounding the kidnapping and death of Leigh Matthews was barely believable. “The applicant’s ‘true story’ is riddled with improbabilities,” he said.

Labuschagne said Moodley’s claim that he had been offered R1-million by three men to help them kidnap another man was also questionable.

“It is, in my view, ridiculous,” he said.

“Why would three armed and dangerous men need Moodley’s help, and when they decided to kidnap the victim, why did they still need the applicant?”

Moodley was found guilty in 2005 of the murder and kidnapping of Matthews (21) and of extorting money from her father.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder, 15 years for the kidnapping, and 10 years for the extortion.

Labuschagne said he needed to take into account the delay in approaching the court.
An application to appeal was meant to be made within 14 days.

“In my view, he has failed to properly explain why it took him nearly six years.”

The fact that Moodley had admitted to committing the crime was further ammunition against considering the appeal, the judge said.

“The applicant repeatedly confirmed his guilt for a number of years.”

Labuschagne said Moodley’s application couldn’t succeed because the evidence was available to him before he pleaded guilty, and he was represented by experienced legal counsel.

“Why would an intelligent person plead guilty knowing he would be sentenced to life in prison?” Judge Labuschagne asked.

Labuschagne said Moodley couldn’t explain why he burnt Matthews’ clothing after she was shot. The only conclusion is that he was destroying evidence, he said.

“Afterwards, he carried on with normal life. He went on a trip to Durban, he got engaged and he kept the victim’s ring.”

Labuschagne mentioned that in a note addressed to his family he had confessed to his sins, but had failed to mention any drug dealers.

“It is clear that after years he has seen where the shoe pinches and as such shaped his story to fit his situation,” Labuschagne said.

“This was not a desperate attempt to reveal the truth—but to run away from it.”

The man who put Moodley behind bars, lead investigator Piet Byleveld said: “There were always question marks ... but the right man is in jail.”

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer

Nickolaus Bauer is the Mail & Guardian's jack of all trades news reporter that chases down stories ranging from politics and sports to big business and social justice. Armed with an iPad, SLR camera, camcorder and dictaphone, he aims to fight ignorance and pessimism through written words, photographs and videos. He believes South Africa could be the greatest country in the world if only her citizens would give her a chance to flourish instead of dwell on the negativity. When he's not begging his sub-editors for an extra twenty minutes after deadline, he's also known to dabble in the occasional poignant column that will leave you mulling around in the depths of your psyche. The quintessential workaholic, you can also catch him doing sports on the weekday breakfast show on SAfm and presenting the SAfm Sports Special over the weekend.
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