DEATH penalties have been read out for two men accused of killing two businessmen from Bulawayo by poisoning their water with cyanide while on a gold hunt.
Bulawayo High Court judge Meshack Cheda, on circuit in Gweru, delivered the ruling on Thursday after a trial lasting three days.
Farai Lawrence Ndlovu, 23, of Mkoba Village, Gweru, and Wellington Gadzira, 37, of Zvishavane, both denied the charges but were convicted of the murder of Michael Sutherland, 38, and Geoffrey William Povey, 64, with constructive intent.
Justice Cheda told the two men: “There are no extenuating circumstances in this crime, and the most appropriate sentence considering the seriousness of the offence would be death.”
Ndlovu and Gadzira have an automatic right of appeal at the Supreme Court.
On the second day of the trial on Wednesday, Ndlovu took the witness stand to accuse Gadzira of plotting and executing the murders. He admitted an intention to rob.
Ndlovu said he had been approached by the two men who asked him to take them to Kwekwe, where there was a gold rush at the time, to prospect for the mineral.
He had invited Gadzira to come along. He told the court Gadzira suggested – while they sat at the back of a pick-up truck with Sutherland and Povey seated in front, that they could make more money if they gave the two Bulawayo men sleeping tablets and robbed them of their metal detectors and other personal belongings.
“We were already on our way to Kwekwe when Gadzira started questioning me on how much I was getting from working with the deceased persons,” Ndlovu said.
“I told him everything was okay, but he said I was wasting an opportunity to make more money. I then asked what he meant and that is when he suggested that he had some tablets with him, which could make the deceased persons sleep for an hour and then we would take their belongings and escape.”
Ndlovu said Gadzira then put the tablets in a plastic bottle which had some liquid and they dissolved. Gadzira the poured the contents into Sutherland and Povey’s drinking water.
He said upon arrival near Kwekwe River where they wanted to prospect for gold, he and Povey went in one direction while Gadzira went in another with Sutherland.
“After prospecting, I came back to the vehicle with Povey and he drank the water,” Ndlovu said. “I was shocked when he fell to the ground and was losing strength. I gave him some fruits and that is when he regained strength.
“I then ran in the direction where Gadzira had gone with Sutherland shouting for help, but I met Gadzira on the way who said Sutherland had already drunk the water and he had left him dozing.
“When I tried to explain to him that the pills were not having the same effect on Povey as he had earlier on explained, he became angry and said I should not have given him the fruits.”
Ndlovu further told the court that Povey attempted to drive to hospital but stopped after only going for 1km. He said when he held Povey by the arm to get him off the driver’s seat, Gadzira came from behind and struck the businessman with a mortar pick on the head.
“My Lord, Gadzira is the one who hatched this plan after I had introduced him to the deceased. He lied about the effects of the drugs, he killed Sutherland and Povey. My only intention was to participate in making them sleep and escape with metal detectors and not commit murder.”
But in his defence, Gadzira said Ndlovu had delivered the blow that killed Povey.
“He is the one who struck Povey with a pick and not me,” Gadzira said.
Rosa Takuva, prosecuting, told the court that the men had fled the scene with the deceased’s vehicle, $300 cash and other personal belongings.
Ndlovu tried to escape to Mozambique where he intended to sell the car but was arrested on March 29 near Sango Border post. Gadzira was arrested in Bindura on July 11 by a 30-man strong joint taskforce which involved the Central Intelligence Organisation and various units of the Criminal Investigations Department.
Relatives of the two dead men welcomed the judgement outside court.
A spokesman for both families said: "We have waited a year for this judgement. We feel justice has prevailed.”