Two life sentences for murder, attempted rape of Rene Roman

A 52-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison for attempted rape and the murder of 13-year-old Rene Roman in Lavender Hill, Cape Town.

Andrew Plaatjies was sentenced in terms of a plea and sentencing agreement he entered into the State in the Western Cape High Court on Monday.

"This has to stop," Judge Robert Henney commented during the proceedings.

Roman went missing on March 10, 2017. She was last seen in St Agatha Street in Lavender Hill, a suburb east of the city centre. She had been sent to buy chips but disappeared.

Her body was found, covered in a carpet, in a wendy house in the same street and Plaatjies was arrested.

Earlier in the case, it was revealed that Plaatjies was the boyfriend of the owner of the property on which her body was found.

READ: Man linked to scene where Cape Town teen was raped, killed

The plea agreement states that Plaatjies had worked for Sasko bakery for 22 years at the time of the incident. He earned R3 700 a month and paid his estranged wife R500 a month. They have a daughter who is 30 years old.

He lived with his girlfriend for three years and had assisted her financially. He got as far as Grade 5 in school but left to help his mother financially. He has eight siblings and assists one of his four sisters financially.

On Monday, Plaatjies' plea and sentencing procedures were briefly interrupted after he pleaded guilty to murder and rape.

However, his lawyer Henk Carstens pointed out that Plaatjies was supposed to have pleaded guilty to murder and agree to a sentence of life in prison, and attempted rape with an agreed sentence of eight years in prison.

After a discussion with Plaatjies, the plea was read to him again and he pleaded guilty to attempted rape instead.

In his plea agreement, Plaatjies said he pulled a plastic bag over the girl's head, pulled her panties down, and hit her three times on the head with the back of an axe to "neutralise" her for rape.

When he saw she was not moving, he got a fright, and did not go through with the rape.

The case changed courts midway on Henney's orders to accommodate the large group of family, supporters and media who had gathered for the verdict.

When it resumed, with an interpreter for Plaatjies, Henney had to adjourn again when he disagreed with Carstens' submission that there was no minimum sentence for attempted rape.

When asked, Prosecutor Ntoaki Mabilietsi said she did not know what the minimum sentence was for attempted rape of a minor in those circumstances.

Henney pointed out that Section 55 of the Sexual Offences Amendment Act regarded attempted rape of a minor with the same severity as if the minor had been raped.

During the short break, Carstens and the prosecution quickly read up on the act and when it resumed, he conceded that Henney was correct.

Carstens said the agreement had been amended during the break to reflect that the life sentence could also be imposed for attempted murder and that Plaatjies had agreed to that.

"Please remember that," Henney said to the prosecutor, referring to the minimum sentence requirement.

"Yes M'Lord. I'll never forget," said Mabilietsi, who has successfully put a number of murderers in prison, including Sigcine Mdani, who kidnapped and killed Noluvo Swelindawo in Khayelitsha.

Henney said he was concerned that over the past few years he had handled several cases where young girls had been subjected to a sexual offence before they were murdered by people known to them or who lived near them.

He mentioned the murder and rape of 11-year-old Stacha Arendse by neighbour Randy Tango in Mitchells Plain. Henney sentenced Tango to three life terms in December.

He also named the case of Jerome Amerika, who raped and killed 10-year-old girl Shamonique Claasen in Paarl - a day before her 11th birthday in December 2016. He also raped his former girlfriend twice. Henney gave Amerika five life sentences.

"It is either a neighbour, or an uncle, or a family friend," said Henney.

"And that makes it so difficult to curb these types of offences.

"Because we always tell children to be careful of strangers. But I see that the perpetrators of these crimes are no strangers."

Henney said that in "99% of the cases" the child's body was found buried in a shallow grave.

He told Plaatjies that he had done the right thing by admitting to what he had done, but that no compelling circumstances had been provided to deviate from the minimum sentence.

When Henney handed down the two life sentences, people in the public gallery clapped their hands to their mouths.

Slight sounds of "Yes" escaped their lips as they waited for Henney to leave the court.

In the passage, there were tears and repeated murmurs of "It's over. He's not coming out."

On the steps outside the court, the slain teen's father Mervin, mother Chrissandre Jacobs, and grandmother Maureen De Villiers said they were pleased with the outcome.

But Mervin had an extra message directed to parents: "Always be on the alert because it is very easy. Look how [easily] it happens."