By Mary Taruvinga
A 49-YEAR-old Harare man, who killed his girlfriend and her three children by burning them alive after he was ditched back in 2013 has been sentenced to hang by High Court Judge, Justice Esther Muremba.
Bernard Mazhandu Mucheka was also slapped with a life sentence for attempting to kill his late girlfriend’s visitors on the fateful day.
The killer boyfriend was convicted in all four murder counts and four attempted murder charges he was facing after a full trial, which took five years to conclude.
His late girlfriend, Lorraine Mtetwa of Epworth was burnt to death together with her three children.
Only one child escaped together with Mtetwa’s minor relatives who sustained deformities following the arson attack.
In passing sentence, Justice Muremba said this was one of the most heinous crimes she had ever presided over. The accused did not submit anything mitigatory for what he did.
“All murders are heinous, but this one was more horrendous because it was pre-meditated.
“Accused knew that his girlfriend, Lorraine had four children and that they were sleeping in the house. This shows he had planned to kill his girlfriend together with her four children,” Judtice Muremba said in her ruling.
“Premeditation to commit murder in the absence of mitigatory circumstances calls for the death penalty. The accused, in his warned and cautioned statement said he was so angry because Lorraine wasted his time and squandered his money.
“He plainly said the children were just caught in the crossfire and treated it as collateral damage. That is not mitigatory.”
The Court heard that Mucheka could have killed eight people who were in the house but the other occupants escaped with serious burns.
The Judge said Mucheka can never be forgiven for what he did.
“It is aggravatory that four people died at the same time. The accused torched the house not knowing that three more people had visited. Death by fire is torturous.
“Murder accompanied by excruciating pain and suffering cannot be tolerated. Murdering a minor is aggravatory. In this case the three children who died were minors and had committed no offence against the accused,” she ruled.
Muremba also said Mucheka did a shameful thing since he is a married man with three children.
It was the State’s case that Mucheka was having an extra marital affair with Lorraine for three years. The deceased woman is said to have discovered that Mucheka was married in February the same year and broke up with him.
This did not go well with Mucheka who then started sending messages threatening to harm Lorraine.
On the fateful day, Mucheka who resided in Hatfield bought five litres petrol before he boarded a commuter omnibus to Epworth.
The Court heard he waited at a shopping centre close to Lorraine’s place until 11pm.
Mucheka then proceeded to the place and sprinkled petrol on the door mat before he broke Lorraine bedroom window and sprinkled the substance inside.
Prosecutor Beaven Murevanhema proved that he then set the house on fire before he fled the scene.
He was arrested two weeks later at his rural home in Chivhu.
Court heard Lorraine had told her friend, 19-year-old son and employer about the threats which were being sent to her mobile phone by Mucheka before she was killed.
She died at Harare hospital four days after the arson attack.
Lorraine died on the same day with her 17-year-old daughter. Her other daughter aged 16 and a relative of the same age died the following day.