The killers of Mooinooi couple Anisha and Joey van Niekerk were each sentenced to life imprisonment for what the judge remarked was one of the cruellest crimes he had ever dealt with while on the bench.

“You are a gang of evil-minded criminals,” Judge Bert Bam told the four killers before sentencing two of them to two life imprisonment terms, while the other two each received four life terms.

Mercia Strydom, the wife of mastermind behind the killings Koos Strydom, during sentencing proceedings asked Gauteng High Court Judge Bam to have mercy on her and to keep her out of jail.

She said she was only 21 when the Van Niekerks were killed and while two State witnesses in detail testified how she was on the scene of the killings, she maintained to the end she was not present.

She received two life sentences, as well as an additional 69 years imprisonment for her role in the events which unfolded in December 2017 on a plot in Mooinooi, near Brits.

Accused Alex Modau also received two life sentences and an additional 54 years in jail, while James Sithole and his brother Jack Sithole received four life terms and an additional 54 years.

Judge Bam commented that the killing of the two defenceless women were “inhumane, cruel, evil and simply despicable”.

Not only were the women abducted and assaulted, but both were raped, more than once before and in the presence of the other partner, before both were hung from meathooks from the ceiling of a shipping container.

As their feet were dangling on the floor, James Sithole shortened the noose around their necks to allow them to suffocate to death slowly.

As if this was not enough, the judge said, their bodies were set alight and the accused watched as they burnt to ashes. This was still not enough and the accused crushed their bones into little pieces, before burying it.

When the bones were discovered a few days later and uncovered, forensic experts were only able to identify the remains of Anisha.

It emerged during the trial that Koos Strydom wanted the plot on which the Van Niekerks lived. While they wanted to sell, he could not afford it.

He and his wife derived a plan to abduct the pair and have them sign a bogus purchase agreement, which they did after they were abducted and forced to do so. But they were then killed so as to silence them.

Judge Bam said “How you thought you could get away with this boggles the mind, as people do not just vanish”.

He questioned how the killers could have asked the court to show them mercy, while they showed no mercy to the two women. Witnesses testified how the naked pair begged for their lives before they were slowly tortured and killed, after they were raped.

The court heard Joey was killed first and that Anisha had to witness this while she was also tied to a meathook.

The pair’s family after sentencing said they were relieved the four would never get out of jail again. They said while they would never obtain closure, at least the healing process could begin.