Shannon murder trial ends with 6-year sentence

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

The family of murdered Shannon Wasserfall(22) said they have been left devastated after Azaan Madisia, the initial key suspect in her death was sentenced to eight years with two years suspended on for five years on condition that she is not convicted of the same offense of defeating the course of justice.

Madisia was acquitted for the murder and found guilty on charges of defeating the course of Justice and fraud. On the two charges of fraud, she was sentenced to one year each, but the sentences are to run concurrently with the defeating the course of justice sentence of 6 years.

Madisia’s brother, Steven Malundu was sentenced to six years, of which two years was also suspended for a period of five years on condition that he too is not convicted on similar charges. He will thus serve a four-year jail term.

Dennis Wasserfall, Shannon’s uncle who spoke on behalf of the family shortly after the sentencing of the siblings described the sentencing as lousy and added that the family will be appealing against the sentence.

“We don’t know what happened today. We are not happy with what happened today but at least we have been given 14 days to appeal. We will be appealing. It is a very lousy sentence and it is very upsetting,” he said.

Judge Christie Liebenberg noted that Madisia had no intention to hand herself over to the police and take accountability, and that that weighed against her, in sentencing. He added the perpetrators did not intend to admit to committing the crimes.

“This was indicative of sincere contrition on their part. In deciding this vexed question, sight should not be lost of the fact that neither of the accused persons initially intended to come clean and admit their wrongdoing. This only came about when Madisia was linked to the anonymous text messages during the police investigation which led to her arrest. Although she desired the deceased’s body to be found where buried, she never wished to implicate herself in the commission of the crime. She and her co-accused kept it a secret until their arrest, about six months later. This was further aggravated by the number of statements made by the accused to the police in which misleading information was tendered,” he said. The Judge however said he considered the element of remorse on the culprits’ part.

The Judge went on to say that he did not doubt that the siblings have feelings of remorse, however due to evidence they would never have come to the fore, had they not been caught out.

“However, as borne out by the evidence, Malundu was unexpectedly drawn into an unenviable situation by his co-accused who persuaded him not to involve the authorities but rather to assist her in disposing of the body. He caved in and whilst realising that he would be committing a crime, agreed to help her as he felt pity for her. In these circumstances, it appears to me that the blameworthiness or culpability of accused 2 is, to a certain degree, less than that of accused 1. This is a mitigating factor which should be reflected in the punishment meted out for the reason that the less blameworthy an offender is, the less severe should the sentence be,” Judge Liebenberg added.

Moreover, he said the state’s lawyer said the charges they were convicted of are serious and each was deserving of a custodial sentence.

“Defence counsel further submitted that sentences of direct imprisonment would also impact the family of the accused. Though it could be expected that their absence would necessarily bring distress and hardship to the family of the accused persons, this is an inevitable consequence of crime and is not something which the court can consider a mitigating circumstance,” he added. Madisia and Malundu were acquitted of the murder charges last month.

Judge Liebenberg found that the state did not lead evidence in proving the murder and robbery charges and based its case on conflicting statements made by Madisia and Malundu during the police investigation.

Moreover, Judge Liebenberg said the body of Wasserfall was in an advanced stage of decomposition when it was discovered, therefore the cause of death could not be determined.

Madisia, who was arrested in 2021 after the remains of Wasserfall were found buried in a shallow grave close to the Dunes Mall at Walvis Bay, faced a total of four charges; murder, defeating the course of justice, fraud and theft.

Mulundu handed himself over to the police shortly after his sister’s arrest.

Wasserfall’s remains were ultimately found in October 2021 after an anonymous message was sent with the exact location of her shallow grave to her father and the police.

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