Taxi driver handed 25 years in prison for murder of Cape Town traffic officer
Luvu Mlandu, who drove over and killed Deon Sampson in Khayelitsha two years ago, was sentenced in the Western Cape High Court.
“Twenty-five years is not a lot, as my husband would say, ‘it’s a slap on the wrist’,” said Lucian Sampson after Luvu Mlandu was sentenced to 25 years for murdering her husband, traffic officer Deon Sampson, in 2020.
Speaking outside the Western Cape high court, Lucian said: “This isn’t closure but it’s a step on my path to healing”.
Inside the court, about 25 traffic police officers were seated with Lucian when Mlandu was sentenced.
Mlandu, a 40-year old taxi driver, entered a plea agreement with the state. He pleaded guilty to all five charges: murder, two counts of attempted murder, the contravention of the National Road Traffic Act and failure of assisting the deceased.
Mlandu had been drinking when he was stopped at a roadblock near Spine Road in Khayelitsha at around 9.40 pm on 7 August 2020.
According to court papers, Mlandu was trying to avoid being arrested for drunken driving and attempted to flee the scene. As traffic officers were inspecting his car, Mlandu put his foot on the accelerator.
“Various traffic officers shouted and hit against the taxi for the accused to stop. The accused then accelerated at high speed, whilst the deceased, officer Deon Dennis Sampson was at that point still standing in front of the taxi.
“In the process of accelerating, he hit the deceased. The deceased held onto the front of the taxi, but lost his grip and was dragged several metres under the taxi. When his body dislodged from the taxi, the accused still continued driving and drove over the deceased,” read the court papers.
Deon was still alive when Mlandu sped off but died shortly afterwards. Other traffic officers chased Mlandu, who continued to attempt to evade arrest by trying to push two officers’ cars off the road.
“The accused knew that by trying to push them off the roadway, their vehicles could leave the roadside. This could have the further effect that they may be involved in a fatal crash. The accused nevertheless continued in his pursuance of an escape to possible arrest,” read the court papers.
Traffic and police officers fired several shots at Mlandu’s taxi which hit the tyres and led to the taxi coming to a standstill. Mlandu was then arrested.
As the details of Deon’s death were about to be read, state prosecutor Esna Erasmus asked for family members to be given the opportunity to leave the gallery. Two family members left the gallery while Lucian stayed.
Although Mlandu was intoxicated, he admitted that at “all relevant times he knew what he was doing and could make decisions accordingly”. He also admitted that he didn’t stop to assist Deon after hitting him, as required by the National Road Traffic Act.
This wasn’t the first time Mlandu had appeared in court. In 2015, Mlandu was convicted for culpable homicide and drunken driving, he was sentenced to 24 months, with five years suspended. In 2014, he was convicted for theft and sentenced to five years with two years suspended. In 2018, he was convicted for malicious damage to property and given a fine of R3,000 or six months imprisonment.
Before Mlandu was sentenced, Adrian Long, principal inspector in the City of Cape Town’s traffic services read a letter on the trauma he and his colleagues had suffered.
An emotional Long described the trauma of hearing Deon’s bones crack beneath the taxi.
“The events after this incident and even up to the present moment continue to be devastating,” said Long.
“Officer Sampson was a deeply religious man, devoted husband, a very good father. I knew officer Sampson for many years and in fact, I chose him to join the Cape Town Traffic Services Ghost Squad which I manage. He was consistently our best performer year in and year out. He was without a doubt the best traffic officer I had ever worked with,” said Long.
Deon, who was 46 years old, leaves behind his wife of 18 years and three children.
“Mrs Sampson and the children received psychiatric treatment, but have to live with the loss of their father and husband on a daily basis. They are struggling to cope without him,” read the court papers.
As to how the family has been able to cope, Lucian said that her faith kept her strong. “I wouldn’t have been able to cope on my own strength, my faith has really kept me going,” she said. DM