A 27-year-old Mpumalanga man has been sentenced to two life terms for raping and killing a nine-year-old girl in 2017.
Philip Mailula was found guilty of the rape and murder of the little girl, which happened on September 9 2017. The double life sentence was handed last Friday by the Mpumalanga divisional high court sitting at Kwaggafontein.
During the trial, it was revealed that Mailula of Mametlhake tried to conceal the evidence of his crime but then later, out of panic or remorse, confessed the rape and murder to the investigators.
Mpumalanga police Brigadier Conolel Leornard Hlathi said Mailula hid the girl's body in the bushes in Mametlhake after raping her. Hlathi said Mailula then returned to his residence pretending nothing had happened.
"He was later struck by guilt but still engulfed by denial, he managed to disclose to someone, however changed the facts and mentioned that he instead saw two men committing the murder and rape against the young girl," Hlathi said.
"Moments later, the story broke and spread around the community after the discovery of the girl’s body and police were immediately summoned."
Hlathi said the family told the police that they were still anticipating to report the girl as missing before they received the bad news about the discovery of her body.
"[Police] investigation unearthed that the victim was also raped."
Hlathi said earlier in the investigation, Mailula claimed to have witnessed two local men aged 47 and 44 attacking the girl.
"The two men were duly arrested but were later released as they could not be linked to the crime. Their release was not well received by the community who went on rampage and torched the two men’s houses.
"The police’s relentlessness paid off when they reverted back to Mailula for further re-examination where he became overwhelmed and confessed. He was then apprehended and released on bail and absconded. Police traced and managed to rearrest him."
Mailula had pleaded guilty on September 14 before Judge Thando Mankge, who said the sentence needed a strong message to the public that crimes against women and children will not be tolerated by the nation.
Apart from the two life sentences for murder and rape, Mailula was also found to be unfit to possess a firearm.
"His name will be entered into the register of sexual offenders," Hlathi concluded.