The Herald (South Africa)

Man, 23, pleads guilty to killing three elderly people

- Devon Koen koend@theherald.co.za

One of the two men accused of the brutal murder of a Schoenmake­rskop couple as well as the murder of another man in the Forest Hill cemetery has pleaded guilty.

Vuyani Sifunda, 23, pleaded guilty yesterday in the Port Elizabeth High Court to the murders of Tyrone Winston Jantjies, 62, Kenneth John Alexander, 76, and his partner Elaine Allwright, 78.

He also pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Thembaleth­u Ndiyane, 23.

Sifunda’s co-accused, Mbuyiseli Pikoli, 37, did not enter a plea and will be tried separately after state prosecutor Liesel Landman asked the court to split the trial of the two men before Sifunda entered his plea.

Both men are charged with three counts of murder, one of attempted murder, two counts of housebreak­ing with the intent to rob and one count of robbery with aggravatin­g circumstan­ces.

Sifunda pleaded guilty to all the charges except one of housebreak­ing, which the state had withdrawn.

Pikoli’s trial is expected to start on March 16.

In his plea explanatio­n, Sifunda admitted to assaulting Jantjies and Ndiyane with a steel rod at about midnight on September 23 2017, but denied that he intended to kill either of the men.

According to Sifunda he and Pikoli had been at the Forest Hill cemetery and had noticed a caravan parked on the premises of the cemetery’s caretakers quarters. They decided to break in.

Sifunda alleged that Pikoli had pried open the caravan door and threw a brick at Ndiyane’s head while he was talking on his cellphone.

Ndiyane collapsed and covered his head while Pikoli allegedly assaulted Jantjies on the bed he lay on, using a hammer.

During the assault on Jantjies, Sifunda said he took a steel rod and continued to beat Ndiyane before the pair ransacked the caravan and made off with R50 cash, a cellphone and Jantjies’s green Toyota Tazz which they later abandoned in the bushes near the Walmer township.

Sifunda said two days later, on September 25, he and Pikoli planned to break into the Marine Drive, Schoenmake­rskop, home of Alexander and Allwright with the intent to rob the elderly couple.

At the property, the two men allegedly jumped over the back wall and found Alexander, who had been investigat­ing a suspicious noise, outside.

“Almost immediatel­y after jumping over the wall ... [Alexander] was assaulted by [Pikoli] with a hammer on the head. [Pikoli] then instructed me to drag [Alexander’s] body inside,” Sifunda said.

While busy dragging the body inside Sifunda said he heard a woman screaming and when he went inside the house he saw Pikoli allegedly assaulting Allwright with a hammer.

“I asked [Pikoli] to stop hitting [Allwright] with the hammer, which he did,” Sifunda said.

Allwright managed to survive the attack and climbed through her bedroom window to call for help from a neighbour.

She died 10 days later in hospital due to her injuries, which included severe skull fractures.

Sifunda claimed that it was not his intention to kill anyone and that when he saw Pikoli with a hammer in both incidents he had the foresight to know someone could be killed.

Prior to his arrest, Sifunda worked as a handyman at a school in Port Alfred.

After he had pleaded guilty, Landman informed the court that an agreement had been reached between the state, the defence and other parties regarding Sifunda’s sentence.

In the agreement, Sifunda accepted that he be sentenced to five years for housebreak­ing, 15 years each on the two charges of robbery with aggravatin­g circumstan­ces, eight years for attempted murder and 25 years for each count of murder.

Judge Irma Schoeman accepted Sifunda’s guilty plea.

She is expected to hand down the sentence today.

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