The Johannesburg High Court has handed the mother and uncle of a toddler three life sentences each for her rape and murder.
Both relatives of the two-year-old, Esther Mwenda Brown and Mike Mwenda Brown, appeared in the Johannesburg High Court on Wednesday where the harsh sentence was handed down.
Twenty-eight-year-old Esther and 26-year-old Mike were convicted of the rape and murder of Athalia Bambando in April last year.
Rape and murder
Little Athalia died after she was taken to a Midrand hotel by her mother, Esther, and her uncle, Mike, where they performed a ritual on her, sexually assaulting her and strangling her to death.
She was declared dead by paramedics that were summoned by hotel staff, following the arrival of the siblings at the reception area with her lifeless body.
The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA) Phindi Mjonondwane said the pair were arrested shortly after investigations into the room they had booked led police to a possible ritual murder.
“Crucifix signs made from oil were found on the room’s mirrors and other shiny surfaces. The autopsy report indicated that her death was because of the application of external pressure to the neck, that left her thyroid fractured and blunt force trauma to the head. She further suffered injuries to her private parts.”
In pleading with the court to sentence the siblings to a term of life imprisonment for each count of rape and the murder count, State Advocate Paul Nel argued that the rape and murder were premeditated as part of a ritual killing.
He added that the most aggravating factor was that these acts were perpetrated by the deceased’s own mother and uncle, whom the deceased trusted and looked to for protection.
“Their faces must have been the last images she saw whilst she was strangled to death.”
In his sentencing, Judge Mohamed Ismail pointed out the siblings showed no mercy when they violated the “tender body of a defenceless child, and thereafter took her life in an evil way”.
“The child died an agonizing death at the hands of people she knew and loved.”
Judge Ismail added that the court never got to establish the reason behind Athalia’s murder as the pair did not state their version in court, “a sign of lack of accountability and remorse”.
The NPA commended the work done by the investigating officer Sergeant Phetole Moses Semosa and Advocate Nel in delivering justice to the father of the minor and the rest of the family.
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