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Victim in Soshanguve 'fake death plot' was alive when set alight in house fire: pathology report

Sibusiso and Lerato Mahlangu, accused of killing Lerato's ex-lover Sibusiso Sithebe and using his body to fake Sibusiso Mahlangu's death, in the high court in Pretoria.
Sibusiso and Lerato Mahlangu, accused of killing Lerato's ex-lover Sibusiso Sithebe and using his body to fake Sibusiso Mahlangu's death, in the high court in Pretoria.

A pathology report found that the man whose corpse was used to fake the death of Sibusiso Mahlangu was intoxicated but alive when he was set alight in Mahlangu's house. 

Mahlangu and his wife Lerato are accused of faking his death, with Lerato claiming the burnt body found in their house on January 1 2022 was Mahlangu's when in fact it was the body of her ex-lover, Sibusiso Sithebe.  

Testifying in the high court in Pretoria on Tuesday, pathologist Dr Rebecca Mashiya said she found Sithebe had died from burns.

It was alleged that Mahlangu had hit him, doused him with petrol and then burnt him.

“I concluded that the cause of death was due to burns ... The deceased was alive at the time of the engulfment and the carbon monoxide level was 70%,” Mashiya said.

In the dock the Mahlangu couple sat side-by-side. They face charges of murder and fraud. The fraud charge comes after it was established that they claimed more than R500,000 from a life policy for Sibusiso's “death”. 

The policy was alleged to have been a motive for the murder, which occurred in Soshanguve Block HH.

The distraught Mahlangu family believed their son had died in the fire as a burnt body was found lying on the bed in one of the bedrooms. The grieving family buried Sithebe thinking it was their son. 

Josephine Mashoene, a neighbour who rushed to the scene on the morning of the fire, said she arrived to find the house engulfed in flames and her friend, Lerato, nowhere to be seen. She said she immediately called the accused to let her know about the fire, but Lerato told her she was in Secunda, Mpumalanga.

“She said she was in Secunda and that she left her husband at home so he can take the car to the mechanic. She said she was on her way and had requested an Uber,” Mashoene said.

The court heard, however, how the Uber did not drop Lerato off at home. Instead she got off down the street in front of a spaza shop and called Mashoene to meet her along the way.

Upon arrival at the house, a police officer asked Lerato about the body found in the house and who it could have been. She told them it was her husband.

“She was crying and they asked her if she knew his date of birth or ID number, she said no. The police said we should accompany her into the house so she can check if indeed it was her husband,” said Mashoene.

She said as they walked in, Lerato picked up an unknown object from the floor before they proceeded to the bedroom.

“When we entered the house, the deceased was lying with one hand on the stomach and the other stretched out and [Lerato] held the left hand to feel the pulse then closed the deceased’s eyes and shook his body, shouting: 'Sibusiso! Sibusiso!' After that she covered the body with a blanket and chased us away.

“She started crying and was wailing loudly and she came outside and was throwing herself on the ground and rolling on the ground, crying. I left because I was going to work.”

The trial continues. 



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