WINDHOEK – Windhoek High Court Judge Alfred Siboleka on Friday sentenced 24-year-old Charles Michael Swartz to an effective 20 years in prison for killing his 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend in 2012.
He was charged with killing his girlfriend, Sara van der Westhuizen, a minor, who at the time was pregnant with his child, on October 3, 2012 in Mariental by stabbing her seven times with a knife.
The judge convicted Swartz of murder with direct intent, one count of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and one count of assault by threat on June 7 this year. He was also sentenced to six years on the assault GBH count and six months on the assault by threat count.
These sentences were however ordered to run concurrently with the sentence of 20 years. This means that Swartz will be eligible for parole after he served two thirds of the 20-year sentence if he behaves well while incarcerated.
Judge Siboleka noted that he took into account the youthfulness of Swartz as well as the time he already spent in custody – six years – when he decided on the punishment. The judge also narrated that Swartz feels “very guilty” for the death of the deceased. “He was still a very young person when he took the life of the deceased,” Judge Siboleka said, adding that the deceased’s family has accepted Swartz apology for his heinous act.
“The accused wholeheartedly apologised and asked for forgiveness from them, and they accepted and forgave him. He was very young at the time. That is the reason why he is asking forgiveness from the court. He has no previous convictions.”
While there are mitigating factors present, the imposition of a long custodial sentence is inevitable, given the nature of the crime, the judge observed. He said that the attack on the deceased was brutal and persistent as evidenced with the number of stab wounds, namely seven. Judge Siboleka further said that before the fatal stabbing took place, Swartz assaulted the deceased with a steel wire and kicked her in the stomach. “This happened when she was already pregnant with the accused’s own child,” the judge said. He continued that this was out of jealousy because he suspected that her mother was planning to give her to another man. According to Judge Siboleka, on the day she was murdered, the deceased ran into her house to avoid further stab wounds, but that did not help because Swartz followed her and stabbed her several more times in the back. “Inside the house, the deceased tried to seek shelter behind her grandmother, but the accused was not deterred, he warned the elderly lady to stay out of the attack or else he will also stab her,” Judge Siboleka remarked.Swartz was represented by Mbanga Siyomunji on the instructions of legal aid and State Advocate Dominic Lisulo prosecuted.