The Western Cape High Court on Wednesday sentenced Aljar Swartz to 22 years behind bars for the 2013 beheading of a Ravensmead teenager.
Judge Elize Steyn described Swartz as a “heartless individual” who knew what he was doing and “enjoyed it”.
Swartz was convicted on one count of murder and three counts of incitement to commit murder, but Steyn said these convictions would be “taken together” and the 22-year sentence would be backdated to the day of his arrest on October 20, 2013.
This means Swartz faces just over 19 years behind bars.
In March, Swartz was convicted of the gruesome beheading of 15-year-old Lee Adams at an abandoned school in October 2013.
The court found that he had been motivated by financial greed as he planned to sell the head of his victim to a sangoma for R5 000.
Swartz was in grade 11 and was just 17 years old at the time. He admitted to luring his 15-year-old friend to Florida Primary under the pretext that they would smoke dagga there. He then stabbed him numerous times, strangled him, and finally decapitated him.
Judge Steyn said on Wednesday that minimum sentence legislation was not applicable in this case as the accused was 17 years old when the crime was admitted.
She said the Child Justice Act was applicable and this meant the offender could not be declared a dangerous criminal or sentenced to more than 25 years behind bars.
Steyn said the family of the deceased were “really battling to come to terms with the loss” and that the accused had shown no empathy, compassion or remorse.
She referred to the pre-sentencing report of a forensic psychologist, Major Hayden Nibbs, who had deemed Swartz a high risk for offending again.
Nibbs testified during the trial that Swartz had a psychopathic personality and that he was manipulative and could be charming. He further testified there was little chance of rehabilitation in Swartz’s case and recommended his sentencing report be made available when a parole board one day reviews the case.
Steyn said: “The accused has been shown to be a manipulative liar, who stopped at nothing to reach his goals.”
She dismissed the evidence of a pastor who testified that Swartz had been influenced by demons when he committed the crime. Methodist Reverend Cecil Begbie had told the court that he had since exorcised him of his demons, and that Swartz was now a Christian devoted to Jesus.
But, Steyn felt that while Begbie had approached his interviews with the accused with “zeal and religious fervour” he had been misled by Swartz. She said he was not a reliable witness and had lacked objectivity.
“I do not believe that Swartz was possessed or influenced by demons,” said Steyn.
She said the fact that he had a previous conviction relating to a stabbing incident was an aggravating factor. And while his age had been in his favour when considering sentence, “testimony indicated his actions were not impulsive”.
“He alone has the capacity to reinvent his life,” Steyn told the court.
Swartz appeared unemotional in the dock.
Loud sobbing could be heard from members of the deceased’s family as court was adjourned.
– African News Agency (ANA)