Sui­cide at­tempt counts in favour of Killer’s sen­tence re­duced

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - NEWS - PATSY BEANGSTROM NEWS EDITOR

A CON­VICTED mur­derer, who tried to com­mit sui­cide af­ter killing his ex-girl­friend and the mother of his child, has had his life im­pris­on­ment com­muted to 18 years af­ter ap­peal­ing his sen­tence in the North­ern Cape High Court.

Em­manuel Smous ap­pealed his sen­tence of life im­pris­on­ment, handed down on June 15 last year, af­ter he was found guilty of mur­der­ing his 20-year-old girl­friend.

The in­ci­dent hap­pened on New Year’s Day in 2014 when Smous met his for­mer girl­friend and a friend at a tav­ern in Boi­choko in Post­mas­burg. Smous’ ex-girl­friend, who was also the mother of one of his three chil­dren, left the tav­ern with the ac­cused and ended up in his shack. A neigh­bour overheard the de­ceased scream­ing for help from Smous’ shack.

Later that morn­ing Smous’ par­ents were called to the shack where they found the de­ceased ly­ing on the floor in a pool of blood. They re­ported it to the police, who ar­rived on the scene.

A blood-stained knife was found on the kitchen unit as well as a shoelace and a red elec­tric cord hang­ing from the rafters and it later emerged that Smous had tried un­suc­cess­fully to com­mit sui­cide by hang­ing him­self. He also drank a con­coc­tion of liq­uid soap and Ratax (rat poi­son).

Ac­cord­ing to the post-mortem re­port, in­juries on the de­ceased showed a his­tory of as­sault, while the cause of death was mul­ti­ple in­juries, some caused by se­vere blunt force trauma and oth­ers by a sharp ob­ject. The in­juries were, ac­cord­ing to the foren­sic pathol­o­gist, con­sis­tent with those in­flicted by a per­son with a high level of anger.

Smous’ de­fence at­tor­ney ar­gued that a sen­tence of life im­pris­on­ment in the cir­cum­stances was in­ap­pro­pri­ate and in­duced a sense of shock. He sub­mit­ted that a sen­tence of 15 years im­pris­on­ment would have been an ap­pro­pri­ate sen­tence, es­pe­cially as the trial court did not find that the mur­der was pre­med­i­tated.

Hand­ing down his judg­ment on the ap­peal, Judge Pule Tlaletsi, (at the time Act­ing Judge Pres­i­dent), head­ing a full bench of ap­peal, pointed out that the de­ceased was a de­fence­less wo­man who posed no dan­ger to Smous.

“He took her to his shack where she met her un­timely death. There is, how­ever, no ev­i­dence to sug­gest that she was not will­ing or was forced by Smous to ac­com­pany him. The at­tack with a knife was vi­cious. Her loud screams did not de­ter Smous from fur­ther at­tack­ing her.

“It would not be un­rea­son­able to in­fer from the facts that Smous may have out of jeal­ousy de­cided that if he could not have her as his girl­friend no one should.

“This in­fer­ence is bol­stered by the fact that he made a se­ri­ous at­tempt to take his own life as well and es­cape ac­count­ing for his deeds. The sui­cide at­tempt could only have taken place af­ter the de­ceased was dead al­ready.”

Judge Tlaletsi pointed out that vi­o­lence in our so­ci­ety, par­tic­u­larly by men against women, was preva­lent.

“The in­ter­ests of so­ci­ety dic­tate that a strong mes­sage to the pub­lic, that vi­o­lence will not be tol­er­ated, should be sent. Fail­ure to do so would feed into the un­jus­ti­fi­able trend of the so­ci­ety tak­ing the law into their own hands by pun­ish­ing, with­out due process, al­leged sus­pects of crime. Re­spect for the law must be guar­an­teed. A sen­tence should be fair to the so­ci­ety, the of­fence, the of­fender and be blended with a mea­sure of mercy.

“I am sat­is­fied that the ag­gra­vat­ing fea­tures of this case out­weigh the mit­i­gat­ing cir­cum­stances. There are no sub­stan­tial and com­pelling cir­cum­stances jus­ti­fy­ing a lesser sen­tence than the pre­scribed sen­tence. How­ever, the pre­scribed min­i­mum sen­tence of 15 years im­pris­on­ment would, in my view, not ad­e­quately cater for the grav­ity of the of­fence and its preva­lence, the in­ter­ests of so­ci­ety and shall not be fair to the ap­pel­lant for what he has done. That is a ju­di­cial bal­ance that a sen­tenc­ing court should strive to achieve. A sen­tence in ex­cess of the pre­scribed min­i­mum of 15 years in the cir­cum­stances of this case is jus­ti­fied.”

Tlaletsi ruled that the life term of im­pris­on­ment be set aside, and that Smous be sen­tenced to 18 years. The sen­tence was an­te­dated to July 6, 2016.

Em­manuel Smous

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