‘Even more!’ How killer cop’s sentence got revised from 30 years to life behind bars after appeal

Benedict Peloeole's sentence was overturned from 30 years to life imprisonment for the double murder of his family.

Benedict Peloeole’s sentence was overturned from 30 years to life imprisonment for the double murder of his family. Foto24/Denvor de Wee

He fatally shot his wife and daughter with witnesses in the house and he was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for the crime.

But Benedict Peloeole was not happy with the sentence and together with his Legal Aid attorney they headed to the Supreme Court of Appeal, asking the to change it. The court obliged and sentenced him to life imprisonment instead.

In September 2015, Benedict was a police officer attached to the VIP Protection Unit of the President of the Republic of South Africa, at the presidential residence, Mahlambandlovu, near the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

On 12 September he killed his wife Keitumetse Peloeole (42) and his daughter Tsholofelo (23) with his service pistol at their Pretoria West home.

He had been out that day to try get funds for a deceased relative to be buried and on the way home stopped to buy liver and a sheep’s head. After drinking brandy with other relatives, he headed home with two male relatives and they found Keitumetse and Tsholofelo in the house.

The court heard that Benedict asked Keitumetse if there was any food and she said there was only bread.

“She then volunteered to cook the liver which he had brought with him. Benedict asked Tsholofelo if there was any problem. She replied that she was not saying anything,” the court papers read in part.

His two relatives were sitting in the living room watching television with the Tsholofelo.

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After washing his hands, Benedict went down the corridor in the direction of his bedroom. It was while he was watching television that Papa (one of the relatives) heard the sound of a firearm being cocked. He saw Benedict in the corridor walking towards the living room.

“Benedict came closer to where Tsholofelo was sitting and fired a shot at her. Papa heard the wife shouting from the kitchen ‘what are you doing’. Benedict then turned and shot at his wife, followed by another shot at his daughter. He proceeded towards the kitchen and fired another shot at his wife.

“He returned to the living room, looked at Papa and Ikageng, and went down the corridor to the bedroom. He thereafter returned without the firearm and told them that they must leave with him. They all exited the house.”

He was handed over to the police by a neighbour. Benedict was 45 years old at the time of the double murder.

The high court rejected Benedict’s version that just before the shooting, he felt dizzy and walked to the corridor, where he blacked out and collapsed. His evidence, in essence, was to the effect that he was unconscious on the floor during the shooting. According to him, he only became aware that his wife and daughter had been killed when he regained consciousness. He said he was told by Papa that he (Benedict) had shot his wife and daughter. This was essentially the evidence on which he was convicted.

On 1 April 2019, the high court sentenced Benedict to 20 years’ imprisonment on each count and ordered that 10 years’ imprisonment of the 20 years imposed in respect of count 2, should be served concurrently with the sentence in count 1. Thus, the effective sentence was 30 years’ imprisonment.

But Benedict said the sentence was “shockingly inappropriate” and applied for leave to appeal. He was granted the leave. The state filed a counter appeal.

Having heard all the evidence from the high court, the SCA said his sentence was not harsh enough.

“There is no doubt in my mind that the sentence imposed is far too lenient, having regard to the scourge of gender-based violence in our country. There is no evidence of Benedict being ‘overwhelmed with rage’ as a result of the conversation with the daughter that evening.

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“Papa testified Benedict did not appear to be agitated or angered as a result of his conversation with his daughter,” says Judge Selewe Mothle.

Evidence revealed that the turbulent nature of the parties’ marital relationship had previously resulted in the appellant threatening to shoot both his wife and daughter, which culminated in his service firearm being confiscated.  His neighbour, who happened to be his confidante, revealed that two weeks before the incident, Benedict had mentioned that he was considering a divorce as a way out of the marriage, but later agreed to his neighbour’s advice regarding asking for the intervention of the elders of his family.

Judge Mothle then dismissed his appeal against the sentence.

“[Benedict] is sentenced to life imprisonment on each count of murder.’

In agreement with the sentence, judge Tati Makgoka says Benedict is a danger to society.

“An effective sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment does not reflect the gruesome nature of the crimes. The deceased were murdered in the sanctuary of their own home, by a person who, ordinarily, would have protected them.

“Importantly, the appellant has not shown any remorse. On the contrary, he remains a danger to society, demonstrated by his remarks and comments to the clinical psychologist, of his desire to kill his former attorney and his nephew. Accordingly, his prospects of rehabilitation are almost non-existent,” he adds.

The sentence was backdated to 1 April 2019.