South Africa: Provincial Commissioner Welcomes Harsh Sentence Handed Down to Heartless Rapist

press release

The Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Manamela, has welcomed the sentencing passed by the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court sitting in Breyten, against 23-year-old, Prayswoth Lawrence Thomas. The accused was given two life sentences with extra 40 years imprisonment on Tuesday, 12 October 2021, after being found guilty on five charges, including rape, murder and kidnapping which he committed between 2016 and 2018 in the area of Ermelo.

The court decided to sentence Thomas following the overwhelming evidence that was presented by the state against him. It was heard in court that on 30 January 2016 the accused raped as well as murdered Nontobeko Felicity Sihlali at Ermelo and he killed her using a brick. The woman was 24-years-old when she met her untimely death and at the time of the incident, the suspect was unknown to the victim. The police at Ermelo were notified and a case was opened as well as assigned to the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit (FCS) in Ermelo.

The accused also took an advantage against a 17-year-old girl who was at a place of entertainment in Ermelo on 11 March 2018 around 01h00 am. It is said that he used a broken bottle in this incident to hold the minor hostage before he forcefully took her to a local cemetery and raped her upon arrival. The matter was brought to the attention of the police in Ermelo and the FCS Unit took over the investigation even though initially the suspect was unknown to the victim.

Thomas went on to prey on defenceless women where on 29 April 2018 he targeted a 27-year-old woman who was walking on the road to Cassim Park near Ermelo. The accused, who was armed with a knife dragged her to the nearest bushes and raped her. On the same day, he forcefully dragged her to his residential place where he further raped her. She fortunately managed to capture the culprit's name after his sister somehow called him by name. This incident too was reported to the police in Ermelo and the case was assigned to the FCS Unit as well. At least in this case police got a name of their suspect which was a crucial clue that would lead them to their breakthrough in the near future. A manhunt was launched for the suspect in the said cases.

The astute members then worked tirelessly in their investigation, collecting every bit of information in the process. Their hard work paid off at the end when they eventually arrested Thomas on 02 May 2018 and linked him to the said cases. The state succeeded in opposing bail and Thomas was remanded in custody throughout his trial until he was convicted and sentenced.

Meanwhile a 34-year-old man was also sentenced to life imprisonment earlier this week, on Monday, 11 October 2021 by the Ermelo Regional Court. His sentence came after an incident in which he raped his 15-year-old niece on 15 March 2020 around 16h00 at Ermelo.

After the incident, the accused threatened his victim not to tell anyone about what he did to her but she managed to break the silence and told to her cousin who later reported to the matter to the victim's mother who in turn notified the police. A case was then opened accordingly and it was also handled by the FCS Unit from Ermelo which led to his arrest on 17 March 2020 and his subsequent sentence.

The Provincial Commissioner further thanked the Investigation Team, the Prosecution Team, as well as the Judiciary and regarded the sentence as a victory in the battle to eradicate all forms of Gender-Based-Violence. The General also indicated that the sentence will surely serve as a deterrence to others who might think of emulating such evil acts against vulnerable people.

Office of the Provincial Commissioner Mpumalanga

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