The man who killed 9-year-old Durban girl Sadia Sukhraj will spend the rest of his life in prison, but her family will never be the same again, Judge Esther Steyn said in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban.
"We are mindful of the fact [that] whatever sentence is imposed today, it will never turn back time or bring back the daughter of this family," she said on Wednesday.
Steyn presided over the murder trial of Sibonelo Mkhize, 39, who was found guilty of two counts of murder and one of robbery with aggravating circumstances, which earned him a double life sentence.
Mkhize and Siyabonga Bulose attacked the Sukhraj family on May 28, 2018 and took her father Shailendra's Hyundai Tucson while little Sadia was in the back seat.
The panicked father managed to retrieve his licensed firearm and fired shots at the driver. The vehicle crashed on numerous occasions with Bulose and Sadia fatally wounded by the time it came to a standstill.
While it was Sadia's father's bullet that killed his daughter, Steyn found that the aggravated circumstances from the robbery left Mkhize liable for her murder and the death of his accomplice Bulose.
"You had active association the moment you got into the Hyundai vehicle. What happened just after was not that of a passive person, but of one who was actively involved. It is important to focus on the robbery committed at gunpoint."
Steyn said the little girl's last moments would have been painful.
"There is no doubt she must have been terrified in her last moments because the vehicle was colliding with various vehicles and travelling at high speed."
She said that Mkhize chose not to testify and had previously been convicted of the theft of a motor vehicle in 2014.
"This did not deter you from committing far more serious offences in 2018. You cannot claim to be a first offender in the true sense."
Steyn said Mkhize had no regard for the safety of anyone besides himself.
"This robbery was so brazen that it was committed in broad daylight near a school with no consideration for other human beings' lives."
She also said that Mkhize's conduct after the vehicle had stopped was that of someone who had no regard for life.
"You removed a handbag after the car stopped. It was the most valuable item in the car and was the first thing you went for without any consideration for what was happening to Mr Bulose or Sadia Sukhraj."
"You were shameless in protecting the loot and trying to escape the scene."
Mkhize has applied for leave to appeal the sentence.