Terms of 19 and 23 years for farm attack

FOUR men who viciously attacked and robbed popular Kirkwood farmer Arthur Rudman and his wife, Trinette, of more than R250000 in cash, guns and other goods have been sentenced to between 19 and 23 years in jail.

Lunga Vellem, 38, Mkwezeli Hempe, 32, Mfundo Ntlanzana, 26, and Mncedi Hlabeni, 26 – all from Port Elizabeth – attacked Rudman and his wife on their remote Blaauwkrantz Farm near Kirkwood in November three years ago.

The Rudman family have run Blaauwkrantz Safaris for more than 45 years and Rudman, 67, has received many awards and accolades for excellence in farming. He has also served as director of the Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa and Wildlife Ranchers South Africa.

Late one night in November 2011, the men lay in wait for the couple. Rudman initially resisted attempts to subdue him and they shot him at point-blank range in the leg, narrowly missing an artery.

They then forced Trinette to open one safe from which they stole three firearms, including an antique Lee Enfield 303 rifle, and ammunition.

After a cellphone conversation, the four men demanded to know the whereabouts of a second safe. They threatened to torture Trinette by putting her in a bath of boiling hot water. She opened a second safe from which they stole hundreds of thousands of rands' worth of jewellery and cash.

Trinette locked herself and her husband in the bedroom while the men ransacked their home, and phoned their son and the police. The men fled.

DNA evidence from chewing gum, a web of cellphone calls between the robbers, an identification parade and thorough police work proved to be their undoing.

In sentencing the four men, Judge Glenn Goosen said aggravating factors included that they had targeted a vulnerable elderly couple on a remote farmstead. The attack had also been carefully planned and executed and was not an opportunistic crime.

Rudman had been shot at point-blank range and his wife had been threatened with being shot as well as with other violence.

"That the Rudmans escaped without any further violence directed at them is to be attributed to the extraordinary bravery and quick thinking on Mrs Rudman's part."

The men were convicted of robbery with aggravating circumstances, attempted murder and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Vellem, Hempe and Ntlanzana were also convicted of attempting to defeat the course of justice after they gave false names at an identification parade.

Vellem was sentenced to an effective 23 years' imprisonment for his crimes and Hempe, Ntlanzana and Hlabeni to 19 years. - Adrienne Carlisle