Man sentenced to 18 years for setting girlfriend on fire for asking him to make space in bed


A man has been sentenced to 18 years in jail for dousing his girlfriend in petrol and setting her alight. He was apparently annoyed that she asked him to move over in bed to make space for her and their children.

The Durban Regional Court sentenced the man to an effective 18 years in prison for the murder of his partner in November 2018.

According to National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Natasha Kara, the couple and their son and daughter, aged nine and two respectively, lived in Cato Manor.

On the night of the incident, the children and their mother watched a movie while their father slept in the bedroom. They later joined him in the bedroom and had to force him to move over to make space for them.

He then got up and went to the dining room where he kept a petrol container that he used for his lawnmower. He returned to the bedroom where his girlfriend was lying face down. He doused her in petrol and set her alight. After a while, he used a blanket to put out the flames. She suffered 60% burn wounds and was rushed to hospital, but died three days later.

Child testified

The father was arrested after his son relayed the details to his grandfather.

Regional court prosecutor Loyiso George Ncemane had to rely solely on the testimony of the child as the father had cleaned out the house prior to his arrest and disposed of any evidence linked to the fire.

With the assistance of an intermediary, the child gave a detailed account of the incident, via a closed-circuit TV system. The court found that his evidence was consistent and it corroborated the evidence of the forensic pathologist who testified on the burns suffered by the deceased. The child's grandfather also testified.

The father was convicted of murder, but the State did not find any evidence of premeditation.

The court found that he provided no substantial and compelling circumstances to justify a deviation from the prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years' imprisonment.

In fact, the court found that there were aggravating factors and exercised its discretion, imposing a sentence of 18 years.

Director of public prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, advocate Elaine Zungu said: "The NPA welcomes the conviction and sentence and applauds the prosecution and the police who ensured that the matter is successfully prosecuted. Society and the courts view the matter in a serious light.

"The actions of the accused cannot be condoned. He showed no remorse in that he allowed his young child to give evidence about such a traumatic experience, knowing very well that he was responsible for the heinous act. The children have lost a mother who cannot be replaced. We will continue to vigorously deal with these matters."

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