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Ex-Security Guard Convicted of Killing S. Africa's Former First Lady - 2003-05-13

A South African court has convicted a former security guard of murdering former South African First Lady Marike de Klerk.

A three-judge panel unanimously found ex-security guard Luyanda Mboniswa guilty of murder. The 22-year-old defendant was also convicted of breaking into Mrs. De Klerk's house and robbery. But the court acquitted him of a rape charge, saying the state had not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Mrs. de Klerk was sexually assaulted.

It took Judge President John Hlope three hours to read out the detailed ruling, examining the state's evidence and the defense rebuttal.

The judge said the only conclusion the court could reach was that Mboniswa was the murderer.

The defendant admitted being involved in the break-in, but the judges did not accept his claim that another man committed the murder, saying there was no evidence to support the claim. Judge Hlope said the defense provided no evidence to contradict the evidence of the state.

Mrs. de Klerk was found murdered in her luxury Cape Town apartment in December 2001. She had been strangled and stabbed. The blade of a steak knife was buried in her back, with the handle broken off.

It was a gruesome death for the former First Lady, who was once married to the last apartheid president of South Africa, F.W. de Klerk. They divorced in 1998, four years after Mr. de Klerk left office.

The Reuters news agency says Mrs. de Klerk lost her right to state protection after the divorce.

The man convicted of her murder, Luyanda Mboniswa, worked as a security guard at her beachfront apartment complex. After the murder, police found him with Mrs. de Klerk's cellphone. They also submitted DNA evidence linking him to the brutal crime.

The Cape High Court is expected to sentence Mboniswa on Thursday. He could face two life terms in jail.