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3 convicted for farmer's murder
21/08/2008 21:20  - (SA)  

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  • Pretoria - Three men were convicted in the Pretoria High Court on Thursday of killing a Bronkhortspruit farmer.

    Judge John Murphy found Joseph Kobele, 18, Antonie Sithole, 18, and Joseph Sithole, 33, guilty of murdering and robbing 60-year-old Robert McNeil in May 2005.

    They were also convicted of kidnapping and severely assaulting Pieter de Beer on the same farm outside Bronkhorstspruit in May 2005.

    Sentencing is expected to be handed down next week.

    A fourth man, Joseph Mashaba, 27, was acquitted on all charges because of a lack of direct evidence against him.

    Forced to take robbers to township

    De Beer, who sustained numerous injuries and a broken collar bone, was forced to take the robbers to a nearby township with his own household goods loaded into his car.

    He passed out and later woke up next to the road before driving to town to get help.

    A neighbour took the seriously injured McNeil - who was attacked with a wheel spanner - to hospital. He died the next day due to complications after a peptic stomach ulcer started bleeding.

    An autopsy revealed that McNeil also suffered severe head injuries.

    The fingerprints of Kobele and Antonie Sithole were found on a television set taken from McNeil's house and left outside under a tree. Joseph Sithole was also linked to the scene through fingerprints.

    Police found Antonie Sithole's shirt, with De Beer's blood on it, on the roof of the shack where the three were arrested.

    DNA 'left by accident'

    The defence argued that the attack on McNeil could not be linked to his death as he could have died because of the negligence of hospital staff, who realised too late that he was bleeding internally.

    Murphy said he had no doubt that the assault was the factual cause of McNeil's death.

    McNeil's stomach ulcer would not have burst and the complications which followed would not have ensued if he had not sustained such severe injuries.

    He would also have been able to cope better with a bleeding ulcer - which rarely causes death - if he had not been injured.

    Joseph Sithole's claims that he was at the house "by accident" and had "accidentally" left samples of his DNA and fingerprints were rejected.

    The case will proceed on August 26.

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