The State, represented by the Deputy Prosecutor General Antonia Verhoef, on Wednesday asked the court to send self-confessed 23-year-old murderer Isak van der Westhuizen to 35 to 40 years in prison to show that the courts are serious in their duty to curb the scourge of murders of women, specifically.
According to Verhoef, three children will now have to grow up without the love and protection of their mother, because Van der Westhuizen could not accept the deceased wanted to end an abusive relationship in which she did not feel safe.
The defense on the other hand, represented by Hipura Ujaha on instructions from Mbaeva and Associates, argued Van der Westhuizen did not waste the court’s time and indicated to the court during his first scheduled pre-trial conference before Judge Christi Liebenberg in the High Court last month that he wishes to plead guilty to the charge of murder.
This must be taken as a show of remorse and of taking responsibility for his actions on the part of the accused, Ujaha stated. He said the accused’s relatively youthful age makes him a perfect candidate for rehabilitation. He thus asked the court show leniency and to sentence his client to no more than 20 years.
Van der Westhuizen pleaded guilty to stabbing Elfrieda Swartbooi, 33, to death on October 31, 2013 at Maltahöhe in the Mariental District. He admitted attacking the deceased, who was six to seven months pregnant. He stabbed and cut her at least 14 times with a hunting knife on her neck and chest. She died from the injuries and blood loss caused by the attack.
Verhoef accepted van der Westhuizen’s plea and asked the judge to schedule the sentencing proceedings as soon as possible to finalise the matter. ccording to a plea explanation his State funded-lawyer Titus Mbaeva entered on his behalf, Van der Westhuizen went to the room of the deceased to discuss problems in their relationship when a quarrel erupted between them and the deceased apparently insulted him and his mother.
He said after the deceased told him she wanted to end the relationship he became angry and decided to injure her in order to “frighten her not to terminate the relationship.”
“Thereafter I then went to the kitchen and collected a hunting knife, which was in the kitchen and returned to the bedroom where I found the deceased sitting on the bed and I then stabbed and cut the deceased several times with the hunting knife until she became unconscious,” he confessed.
He further said after he realised the deceased was unconscious, “I cut myself on the neck with the same knife in order to also die with her.” Van der Westhuizen said he knew the deceased could die from the stabbing and cutting and that it is was wrongful, unlawful and an offence to cause the death of another person and that he could be arrested and prosecuted.
He said he tendered the guilty plea as a token of his remorse and wishes to say he is extremely sorry. Van der Westhuizen has previous convictions, including a common assault and violation of a formal warning – in respect of the deceased – conviction in 2013, as well as one of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, for stabbing Wiehaan Swartbooi, who tried to assist the deceased on the night she was killed.
Judge Liebenberg said he would deliver the sentence on November 5.