Hiv-positive man jailed for 25 years
Intention to kill, says judge
THE killer of a retired fireman should not get a life sentence because he was already doomed – he has HIV.
This was the argument put to Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Isaac Madondo yesterday by an advocate for Bheki Wellington Ngcobo.
But Ngcobo, 50, who had earlier confessed before the judge, detailing the brutality of the robbery and murder of Ronald Drake, was sentenced to an effective 25 years in prison.
Drake, 69, was stabbed to death in his Ashburton home on the morning of May 19.
It is believed that Drake had been sitting on his veranda reading his Bible and his partner, Patricia Semple, was asleep in the bedroom when their attackers appeared on their property.
Drake was stabbed at least eight times in the chest and stomach. The post-mortem report submitted in court yesterday revealed that the stab wounds had punctured both his lungs and his heart.
Ngcobo said that on the morning of the attack, he had met his nephew, Mbongeni Mchunu, 18, who wanted to rob Drake of his firearm.
“Mbongeni asked me to help him. I agreed and we went to the Drake house armed with knives,” Ngcobo said.
He said that they both waited near the garage of the house in the early hours, and while they were waiting, a dog came towards them and started barking.
He said he tried to fend the dog off, but by that stage, Drake had already come to investigate why the dog was barking.
“Mbongeni went straight to Drake and started stabbing him. I managed to chase the dog away and went to help Mbongeni. I took out my knife and stabbed Drake a few times in his chest,” Ngcobo said.
Drake then fell to the floor. Ngcobo said he entered the house through the open door and found Semple in the bedroom. He asked her for the firearm, but she said that there was none.
“Mbongeni then came to the bedroom and tied Semple’s hands and legs with rope that he found in the house.
The two then searched the house and found a cellphone and a LCD television which they wrapped in a sheet and took with them.
Ngcobo was arrested on June 6 in the Pietermaritzburg CBD. He led the police to his nephew, the television and the cellphone. He made a confession the next day.
Mgcobo’s legal aid advocate, Kelvin Singh, argued that his client should not be sentenced to life in prison because even though this was a heinous crime, Ngcobo was a first offender who was already serving a life sentence with his HIV status.
Singh argued that Ngcobo’s nephew was the primary aggressor and the initiator of the crime.
“Ngcobo can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society,” Singh said.
State prosecutor Zuka Diyase argued that Ngcobo was a dangerous man who belonged behind bars.
“He attacked and killed a retired fireman in the sanctity of his home. His intention was not just to subdue Drake, but to kill him, as is indicated by Drake’s wounds,” Diyase said.
Judge Madondo agreed that Ngcobo had been convicted of serious offences, but found that pleading guilty and co-operating with the police had weighed in Ngcobo’s favour.
“You are an adult. You are supposed to advise and guide your nephew, and yet you were dragged into his criminal scheme,” Judge Madondo said.
Ngcobo was sentenced to 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and 25 years for murder. The sentences will run concurrently.
Mbongeni Mchunu has been arrested.