The Western Cape High Court sentenced Aljar Swartz to 22 years behind bars on Wednesday August 11, for the 2013 beheading of Ravensmead teenager Lee Adams.
Judge Elize Steyn described Swartz as a “heartless individual” who knew what he was doing and “enjoyed it”.
Swartz was convicted of one count of murder and three counts of incitement to commit murder, but Judge Steyn said those convictions would be “taken together”, and the 22-year sentence would be backdated to the day of his arrest on October 20, 2013.
This means Swartz faces just over 19 years behind bars.
In March, he was convicted of the gruesome beheading of 15-year-old Lee Adams at an abandoned school in October 2013.
The court found that he had been motivated by financial greed as he had planned to sell his victim’s head to a sangoma for R5 000.
Swartz was in Grade 11 and was just 17 years old at the time.
He admitted to luring his 15-year-old friend to Florida Primary under the pretext that they would smoke dagga there. He then stabbed him numerous times, strangled him, and finally decapitated him.
Judge Steyn said minimum sentence legislation did not apply in this case as the accused had been 17 years old when he committed the crime.
She said under the Child Justice Act Swartz could not be declared a dangerous criminal or sentenced to more than 25 years behind bars.
Judge Steyn said Lee’s family were “really battling to come to terms with the loss” and that the accused had shown no empathy, compassion or remorse.
She referred to the pre-sentencing report of a forensic psychologist, Major Hayden Nibbs, who had deemed Swartz a high risk for offending again. Major Nibbs testified during the trial that Swartz had a psychopathic personality and that he was manipulative and could be charming.
He further testified there was little chance of rehabilitation in Swartz’s case and recommended his sentencing report be made available when a parole board one day reviewed the case.
Judge Steyn said: “The accused has been shown to be a manipulative liar, who stopped at nothing to reach his goals.”
She said the fact that he had a previous conviction relating to a stabbing incident was an aggravating factor. And while his age had been in his favour when considering sentence, “testimony indicated his actions were not impulsive”.
“He alone has the capacity to reinvent his life,” Judge Steyn told the court.
Swartz appeared unemotional in the dock. Loud sobbing could be heard from members of Lee’s family as court was adjourned.
Errol Abrahams, the spokesman for Lee’s family, said they were unhappy with the sentencing.
“The family didn’t take it well. They are still very emotional and Lee’s mother will still take a very long time to heal,” said Mr Abrahams.
He said the family felt Swartz deserved a harsher sentence due to the nature of the killing.
“But, we have to accept the decision of the court and we accept that the judge gave judgment according to the law,” said Mr Abrahams. – ANA