When Soweto schoolgirl 14-year-old Thato Radebe became another crime statistic on February 3 2007 the nation convulsed into collective outrage almost instantly.
Not even a hardened police officer could contain his emotions at the gruesome sight of a young girl in school uniform savaged by her attackers in the still of the night in Soweto.
Her death unleashed pent-up frustrations and anger among local pupils, who protested in the streets in a common cry for justice.
On Tuesday Judge Lucy Mailula brought some closure when she sentenced three of her four killers to jail for 35 years.
During sentencing Mailula opened the wounds with her chilling recollection of the Thato's last moments: "She was tortured. She was brutally raped more than once, assaulted with fists, kicked, stabbed with broken bottles on her neck. Her head was crushed."
With these images of graphic violence, the judge nudged the conscience of a nation about the eerie spectre of savagery that increasingly punctuates crime today.
It is when the criminal justice system swings into action with a vengeance and resoluteness such as happened in Thato's case that hope for our beloved land is renewed.