Student in court over murder of girlfriend

Riot Hlatshwayo

Riot Hlatshwayo

The murder case against a Vaal University of Technology student, who allegedly beat his girlfriend to death before burying her in a shallow grave in December 2006, starts in the high court today.

Mandla Mathebula, 25, of Songeni village, near Thulamahashe, is scheduled to appear in the Nelspruit circuit of the Pretoria high court for trial from today until Friday.

Mathebula, who was a third-year student when he murdered his girlfriend, is out on R3500 bail, granted by Mhala magistrate Sam Nkuna early last year.

Mathebula is accused of killing Advice Mashaba, 19, in the early hours of December 26 2006 after she returned from visiting her new boyfriend.

Mathebula allegedly waylaid Mashaba and attacked her on her return at about 4am.

When Mashaba went missing for two days her family opened a missing person's case at the Mhala police station.

Police arrested Mathebula but released him 16 hours later because someone had told them that Mashaba had been seen in the company of some men in Hluvukani about 3km away.

The family called Sowetan and police rearrested Mathebula after the paper's intervention. The police took Mathebula to court but he was again released owing to a lack of evidence.

The breakthrough in the case came when police sniffer dogs discovered a secret grave at the home of the accused's brother, Hoedspruit Police Inspector Richard Mathebula. Mathebula was arrested and granted bail a few weeks later.

Mashaba's badly decomposed body was exhumed 10 days after her disappearance. A postmortem later revealed that her breasts, lips and eyes were missing.

Police investigations showed that after Mashaba had died, Mathebula carried her body to his bedroom and lay it down on his bed while he dug the grave.

Mathebula allegedly borrowed digging tools from neighbours who claimed to have witnessed him digging next to a tree at the home of his policeman brother. They had no idea he was digging a grave.

Later in the night Mathebula allegedly buried the girl's body when everybody was asleep.