"GUILTY," Mariental resident Gerold Matlata said seven times in the Windhoek High Court yesterday when he admitted he was responsible for a series of night-time attacks on women at the Hardap region town from 2012 to 2015.
Matlata (34) was fidgety and repeatedly rubbed his eyes while pleading guilty to seven charges before judge Christie Liebenberg.
Nearly a year and a half after being arrested, he admitted guilt on one count of murder, two charges of attempted murder, two charges of housebreaking with intent to rape and rape, a charge of housebreaking with intent to rob and robbery with aggravating circumstances, and a count of theft.
Matlata admitted that he broke into the house of a widowed Mariental resident, Debora Snyman (53), during the night of 18 to 19 September 2015, attacked Snyman in her bedroom, and murdered her by strangling her with his T-shirt, and that he raped her before he left the scene.
He also admitted that he stole Snyman's handbag when he left her house.
The attack on Snyman took place more than three years after Matlata had carried out a first attack on a woman at the town.
Matlata admitted that during the night of 29 to 30 June 2012, he broke into a flat at Mariental by entering the apartment through an unlocked door. Once inside, he attacked a woman by smashing a wine bottle on her head, he recounted in a written plea explanation given to the court. Matlata further recounted that he throttled the woman in an attempt to kill her, and raped her after he had overpowered her.
While strangling the woman, he had an intention to cause her death, "but unfortunately she managed to put up some resistance", he stated.
He also admitted that "I have absolutely no valid defence in law, whatsoever, to justify my conduct".
That attack was triggered when, while walking past the flat where he would commit the crimes, "I suddenly felt a very strong urge to have sexual intercourse", Matlata said in his plea statement.
Seven months after that incident, Matlata struck again. He admitted that during the night of 7 to 8 February 2013, he attacked a woman in her house, covered her mouth and nose with his hands in an attempt to suffocate her, and robbed her by taking her handbag when he fled from the scene.
Matlata recounted that he intended to kill the woman he had attacked. However, he ended the attack when "unfortunately she managed to move my hands away from her mouth, and she started screaming", which caused him to flee because he was afraid the woman's screaming would attract the attention of her neighbours, he stated.
Matlata also gave chilling details about the murder of Snyman. He said after he had entered her house - he used a key that he got hold of through her kitchen window to unlock a grated door that gave access to the house - he found Snyman in her bedroom.
"I then saw her in her room facing the opposite direction, and I could see that she was not aware of my presence in the house," Matlata related. "I then sneaked up to her, and I then held my T-shirt on both ends while stretching it, and I put it around her neck while standing behind her, and I strangled her with it."
The two women who survived the attacks on them both testified in aggravation of sentence after Matlata admitted guilt.
The incident that took place in February 2013 was "an immensely traumatic experience", the woman who was Matlata's target on that occasion said. She has become fearful since then, and "my joy of life was stolen", she said.
After Matlata's arrest in March 2017, she realised that his mother lived three houses from herself, she said. Snyman was one of her neighbours, she also told the judge.
"It changed everything," the first survivor, whom Matlata attacked at the end of June 2012, said about the effect the incident had on her.
With no suspect arrested for five years after the attack on her, she lived in a state of fear, and still felt she would never be able to lead a normal life again, she said.
She addressed Matlata directly at the end of her testimony: "I want to say to him, for the rest of my life, I will feel attacked. And I will always have hate in me until the day I know you are in your grave."
Judge Liebenberg is due to hear pre-sentence oral arguments from state advocate Marthino Olivier and defence lawyer Gert Appolus today.