In the third incident, Shadreck Mupeta Kombe testified that on 27th January, 1999, he was residing with his parents in Lusaka East. He told the court that on the same day a stranger came for piece work. His father introduced the stranger to him indicating that the gentleman had come the previous day. Thereafter, he left for work.
Shadreck returned home late at night after hearing about the demise of his parents. By the time he arrived, the parents’ bodies had been taken to the University Teaching Hospital mortuary. On getting home, he found that everything was in disarray as things were thrown all over the place. He found certain personal items missing. Several items belonging to his late parents were also missing.
A trunk, a blanket, a tie and a pyjama top were later recovered by police and the witness identified them. He later attended an in identification parade at Woodlands Police Station and identified the accused as the person whom his father introduced him to on the fateful morning before he left for work. He explained that the accused looked shabby and wore dark clothes the first time he saw him.
And Detective Chief Inspector Leonard Chisama told the court that on 27th January, 1999, whilst on duty at Woodlands Police Station, he received a report in the afternoon on phone that two people were found murdered behind their house. These were Mr and Mrs Kombe. He visited the scene of crime and examined the bodies and found that both bodies had deep cuts on the head, almost dissecting the head. In the deceased’s house he discovered that the rooms were in disarray. Whilst investigating these murders, Chief Inspedctor Chisama received information on 7th April, 1999, that a person with the description of the “serial killer” had been apprehended by charcoal burners. The son to the late couple, Shadreck Kombe, was called to the police station and he identified some of the items found in the possession of the accused as belonging to his parents.
Later the accused person led the police officer to the scene of crime and showed him exactly where he killed the Kombes. After that the witness charged the accused with two counts of murder which he admitted.
And .Detective Chief Inspector Frederick Julius Ng’uni testified that on 7th April,1999, he received a report from a member of the public that they had apprehended a person believed to be the “serial killer.” He rushed to Chilenje Forest and found the accused lying down with his hands and legs tied.
The accused had a bag containing various items. He was carried into a police vehicle and taken to Maina Soko Military Hospital for treatment. The witness said the accused had to be taken to the hospital immediately although he had no visible physical injuries.
At the end of the prosecution’s case, Mrs Justice Muyovwe found the accused with a case to answer and put him on his defence. The accused elected to give evidence on oath and called no witnesses.
In his defence, the accused gave his name as Ben Dlamini Sibongile Sibanda. He said he had revealed to the police the names of the people he was dealing with. He claimed he was being used by two businessmen of Asian origin to identify a victim, hypnotise that person and then the two Asians would come and suck blood from the victim. According to the accused, he was present at the time the two would suck blood using syringes out of the victim’s body and put it in bottles.
The victim would die for lack of blood and then to cover up the scheme, the accused would be told to hack the victim so that it would appear to be a murder. The accused said he was merely being used as he was being given drugs when he lived at the Asians’ houses, hence he could do anything he was told.
In other words, the accused was putting up the defence of automatism, meaning that he was acting under a spell in committing these crimes and therefore he was not responsible for what he was doing.
In her judgement, Mrs Justice Muyovwe first found as a fact that Ben Dlamini Sibongile Sibanda was one and the same person as Gilbert Benard Chilala, which fact, she said, the defence had not disputed. She also found as a fact that the accused knew exactly what he was doing and dismissed his defence of automatism, explaining that a person who did not know what he was doing could not act in the manner the accused did when he committed the four murders.
She said that evidence adduced before the court showed that the accused chose his victims carefully for they were all elderly people of 60 years and above. “It is clear from the evidence that the accused seemed to have done some research on his victims. In the case of Scaver Phiri he obviously went to his home after killing him. How did he know the house since his children had never seen him at their house before? Even in the Kombe’s case, it is clear that he went there with a mission to kill and after killing he took off, having accomplished his mission,” she said.
However, the judge made an observation in passing that the evidence tended to suggest that there were motives behind the killings and the possibility of the accused committing these offences in collusion with others could not be ruled out and she wondered whether the police really investigated this case thoroughly to rule out this.
“As Captain Nanguzyambo and his team have submitted, whatever the accused stole from the deceased was inconsequential and this therefore leaves room for the conclusion there may have been a motive behind the killings, otherwise what explanation can there be for a man to kill in such a senseless manner?” she wondered.
“The evidence before me, which is overwhelming is that of calculated killings by the accused. I find that the prosecution has proved their case against the accused on all four counts beyond reasonable doubt. I find him guilty on all four counts and convict him accordingly.”
In the circumstances, the judge had no option but to impose the mandatory death sentence on the accused, thereby marking the end of an era for serial killer Gilbert Benard Chilala alias Ben Dlamini Sibongile Sibanda.
The author is a Lusaka-based media consultant who also served in the foreign service as a diplomat in South Africa and Botswana. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org