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Murder Files Latest: Durban gardener gets life for killing pensioner

Mzwakhe Mbulawa’s murder victim, Shirley James, was a retired principal who loved to uplift the poor and had trusted him by giving him a job

Woman dead phoenix

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A Durban gardener has been sentenced to life and 15 years in jail for the murder and robbery of an elderly woman who was his part-time employer.

Mzwakhe France Mbulawa, 45, was sentenced to life and 15 years imprisonment for the murder and robbery of Shirley Ester James, 79, in August 2019. James lived alone in her home in Newlands West and Mbulawa worked for her on a casual basis as a gardener.

KwaZulu-Natal National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Kara said that on the day of the incident, Mbulawa had gone to James’ house as usual and at some point he attacked her.

“He bound her and killed her. He stole various items from her home including cellphones, jewellery, commercial cards and household items. Mbulawa returned to the scene the next day to take more things,” Kara said.

“James’ body was discovered a few days later. The post mortem results found manual strangulation and blunt force head injury to be the cause of her death,” she said.

Mbulawa was arrested for the murder and robbery after police traced James’ cellphone sim card. Almost all of the stolen items were found in his house.

In aggravation of sentencing for the murder, Senior State Advocate Denardo Macdonald led the testimony of James’ niece, Natacia Kaylan. Kaylan told the court that her aunt was an ex-school principal who had a vested interest in uplifting the community. She was a dedicated churchgoer and an avid traveler who had trusted Mbulawa by giving him a job.

“The NPA welcomes the conviction and sentence in the matter,” Kara said.