Multiple life terms for killers of lesbian couple Anisha and Joey van Niekerk

Anisha and Joey van Niekerk (Facebook)

The four individuals who brutally tortured, raped and murdered North West lesbian couple Anisha and Joey van Niekerk have been handed multiple life sentences.

The Pretoria High Court sentenced Aaron James Sithole, 37, Jack Chikinya Sithole, 21, Alex Modau, 39, and Mercia Strydom, 24, to a collective 12 life sentences and 187 years in jail.

Jacobus Petrus (Koos) Strydom, the mastermind behind the horrific murders and the attempt to steal the Van Niekerks’ land, escaped justice by killing himself in his jail cell in September last year.

In her closing arguments, advocate Juliet Makgwatha asked the court to reflect on the feelings of the families when delivering the sentence. She argued that burning their bodies did not only defeat the ends of justice but denied their families closure to pay their last respects. The Strydoms’ greed, Makgwatha added, motivated them to commit the premeditated offences.

Pretoria News reports that Judge Bert Bam agreed and told the murderers that they “are a gang of evil-minded criminals,” before passing sentence. He said that “All of this was done simply because of your evil greed.” He dismissed the killers’ pleas for mercy from the court in light of the appaling lack of mercy that they’d shown the victims.

In August, Bam found the three men and one woman guilty on charges including murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, kidnapping, theft, and defeating the ends of justice. Sithole and Sithole were also found guilty of two counts of rape.

Anisha and Joey endured horrific abuse before they were callously killed on 10 December 2017.  Koos Strydom and his wife, Mercia, tricked the couple into coming to their farm in Mooinooi, near Brits, to ostensibly sign offer-to-purchase documents.

The Strydoms were leasing a portion on the Van Niekerks’ plot which the Strydoms wanted to buy. On their arrival, the Van Niekerks were coerced into signing the contract and were assaulted with the assistance of the two Sitholes. The two women were also raped by the Sitholes.

Harrowing court testimony revealed that the women were bound, tortured and hung from their necks in a garden shed. During the assault, the Sitholes and Modau took the couple’s bankcards and forced them to disclose their PIN codes. They later withdrew money from the bank accounts and bought goods.

The two Sitholes and Modau then shot the couple and took their bodies to a nearby river and burned them beyond recognition. They took their car to a road and also set it alight.

The National Prosecuting Authority said it welcomed the sentence imposed on the killers.

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