A deadly attack that a man carried out against his girlfriend by splashing petrol over her and setting her on fire on New Year’s Day 2020 was not only “horrid, cruel and heartless”, but completely unnecessary, a judge commented in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.
Five children were left without the love and care of their mother as a result of the attack in which Manfred Links (31) fatally injured his girlfriend, Michelle Roelph (32), at Ariamsvlei in the //Kharas region on 1 January 2020, judge Christie Liebenberg observed during Links’ sentencing.
The attack on Roelph left her with burn wounds over more than 80% of her body. She died in a hospital at Keetmanshoop 11 days after the attack.
Liebenberg recounted that Roelph was the mother of five children, now ranging in age from 14 years old to four years old, while Links is the father of three children, of which the youngest was born from his and Roelph’s relationship.
Links’ absence as father to his children is also bound to have an adverse impact on their lives, the judge noted.
“The present instance is just another example of the extent of abuse and crimes committed on a daily basis in our society, where the weak and vulnerable often pay with their lives for no reason at all,” Liebenberg remarked.
He continued that differences are likely to arise in virtually any relationship, especially of a romantic nature, and that people are often confronted with difficult situations, including breakups, that require emotional decision-making.
Said Liebenberg: “Irrespective of how difficult and painful the process may be to the affected parties, they are bound to abide by the fundamental rights enshrined in our Constitution, including the moral values endorsed and upheld by society.”
Links had the right to end his relationship with Roelph and walk away, without her becoming a victim, but instead he decided to retaliate for an incident in which Roelph had stabbed him in the arm with a pair of scissors by pouring petrol over her and setting her alight, Liebenberg added.
During his trial, Links told the court he poured petrol over Roelph because he wanted to scare her, as he wanted her to leave their home after they had been involved in arguments and also physical fighting during the day of 1 January 2020.
Roelph was carrying her and Links’ 13-month-old daughter when the petrol was poured over her. She threw the child to the ground when she was engulfed in flames.
The baby was also injured in the incident, which left her with burn wounds on her one arm and one leg.
In the judgement in which Links was convicted of murdering Roelph and attempting to murder their daughter, Liebenberg rejected his version of the events as clearly false.
It was aggravating that Links did not act on the spur of the moment, as was shown by the fact that he had bought the petrol beforehand, the judge remarked during the sentencing yesterday.
He also said he was satisfied that Links, who apologised to the court, Roelph’s family and the community at large after being convicted two months ago, expressed genuine remorse.
Links, who was a healthcare assistant at a Ministry of Health and Social Services clinic at Ariamsvlei before the incident, has been held in custody since his arrest near the start of January 2020.
Liebenberg sentenced him to 28 years’ imprisonment on the murder charge and a six-year jail term, which was ordered to be served concurrently with the sentence on the murder count, for attempted murder.
Defence lawyer Milton Engelbrecht represented Links during his trial.
State advocate Ian Malumani prosecuted.