Former Blue Bulls player convicted of murder

Former Blue Bulls player Phindile Joseph Ntshongwana is guilty of killing four people with an axe and of kidnapping and raping a woman. Acting Judge Irfaan Khalil found that the former rugby star was aware of what he was doing and was criminally responsible.

“The accused has the necessary criminal capacity when committing the offences in counts one to nine. He could fully appreciate what he did and acted accordingly,” Khalil said on Friday.

On Thursday morning he ruled that Ntshongwana was indeed the man who had committed four counts of murder, two of attempted murder, one of assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm, one of kidnapping and one of rape.

No mental illness
Ntshongwana killed Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu in Montclair on March 20 2011, Paulos Hlongwa two days later, Simon Ngidi the following day and an unidentified man sometime that week. All were hacked to death with an axe. Two of the victims were beheaded. He raped and kidnapped a woman. 

He tried to kill two men, one in Umlazi on March 21 2011, and the other in Lamontville on March 23. Ntshongwana assaulted a man in Durban’s Yellowwood Park in November 2010, four days before he kidnapped and held a woman hostage at his home, also in Yellowwood Park.

Khalil said the contention by Ntshongwana’s advocate Themba Mjoli, that at the time of the crimes his client suffered from a mental illness and had no control over his actions, did not hold water. He said the fact that Ntshongwana put the axe in a plastic bag in his car before driving off to find the next victim showed he knew what he was going to do. “The murders were planned and not impulsive acts committed on the spur of the moment. His decapitation of the victims was purposeful,” said Khalil. 

He noted that Ntshongwana did not strike randomly as one without control would, but that the blows of the axe were aimed at the heads of his victims. He described Ntshongwana’s claims that he could not remember the events as an “afterthought”, mentioned once he was already in police custody. 

Kidnapping and rape
He said kidnapping of the rape victim and holding her hostage for three days at his home “could hardly be said to be the actions of a person acting in automatism”. The kidnapping and rape showed “clear and rational thinking”. He referred to Ntshongwana’s efforts to get the woman to send a text message saying she was okay.

Ntshongwana’s attempts to conceal the axe in a dog kennel and his attempt to wash blood from his bathroom indicated he knew what he was doing. “He did not attack his victims indiscriminately. He drove around late at night looking for victims,” he said. 

Stopped and fled
Referring to an attack in Umbilo where a witness shouted at Ntshongwana to stop, Khalil said the fact that he stopped and fled indicated that he knew what he was doing was wrong. The assault in Yellowwood Park stopped when a neighbour switched on a light, and Ntshongwana fled. 

Khalil said Ntshongwana’s defence had failed to prove he was not criminally responsible. “Mental illness is not a defence that excludes criminal culpability,” he said. “We are satisfied that there is no evidence before the court that the accused’s actions were involuntary. On the contrary, everything points the other way.”

He praised the efforts of the police task team, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Jason McGray, that led to Ntshongwana’s arrest. “Had the accused not been arrested by the task team, one can only shudder to think how many more murders would have been committed,” he said. 

Ntshongwana appeared to show no emotion as the verdict was read. Afterwards a small group of ANC supporters danced in jubilation outside the court and hugged members of the police investigative team as they left the building. Sentencing proceedings will start on Wednesday October 1. – Sapa

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