NRI, Young South African girl guilty of murder her grandmother

Pietermaritzburg, Oct. 14, 2004

A 14-year-old South African Indian girl has set a dubious record here by becoming the country's youngest female to be convicted of murder.

The girl, whose name is not revealed because of her age, would know her fate when she is sentenced mid-December for having hired killers when she was just 12 to murder her grandmother Radha Govender, 59, a businesswoman.

When the case came up two years ago, it shocked the nation to know that a 12-year-old had masterminded the killing of Govender. The woman was strangled and stabbed by two killers, Sipho Hadebe and Vusinmusi Tshabalala, who received jewellery and goods from Govender's house in return.

The killers, each serving 25 years in prison, turned state witnesses to implicate the girl.

Judge Kevin Swain released the girl to the custody of her mother. The girl wept uncontrollably in the arms of her mother as the judge delivered his ruling Friday.

The judge turned down a plea by the state to send the girl to prison until sentencing, saying she was too young to spend two months in custody while her sentence was finalised.

Swain said he was not sure yet what form the sentence would take.

Earlier the judge found that the girl had lied in trying to implicate Dash Govender, a bouncer at a nightclub owned by the deceased, as having influenced her to plan and execute the murder. Radha Govender had been first drugged and then killed while asleep.

Marlene Lehnberg, dubbed "the scissors murderer" because of her modus operandi, was until now the youngest South African woman to be sentenced when she went on trial in 1976 at the age of 19.