Hillary Gardee shot with a state gun

Hillary Gardee, 28, was abducted on April 29 and her lifeless body, which had a bullet wound on her upper body, was found abandoned in a field near Sabie in Mpumalanga. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Hillary Gardee, 28, was abducted on April 29 and her lifeless body, which had a bullet wound on her upper body, was found abandoned in a field near Sabie in Mpumalanga. Picture: Oupa Mokoena African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 5, 2023


Johannesburg - The man who confessed to robbing and killing Hillary Gardee in April last year told police in a shocking confession that he used a state-issued firearm to kill her.

In the chilling confession, seen by the Sunday Independent, Hlabirwa Rasie Nkune (sic), told police in August last year that he acted alone when he robbed Gardee of R1 500 and shot her in the back of the head while she was running away from him in the bush near Sabie in Mpumalanga.

Nkune admitted that he had used a 9mm PX4 pistol that he had earlier robbed from a traffic officer in Kanyamazane near Nelspruit. Police in Mpumalanga had initially arrested Sipho Mkhatswa, Philemon Lukhele and Albert Gama and accused them of raping and killing Gardee at Insika Guest Lodge owned by Lukhele in Nelspruit.

The men have protested their innocence since day one but police mounted evidence against them which now looks to be false. Lukhele was released on R20 000 bail three weeks ago, after seven months in custody, while Mkhatshwa and Gama are still behind the bars.

Nkune in his confession, which was admitted in court and added as part of the indictment, doesn’t implicate the three men or mention any role they would have played when he killed Gardee. But instead, Nkune gave police names of his friends, a group of hoodlums, who are preying on young women on social media and then later rape and kill them after robbing them of their belongings including, cash, cellphones and cars.

Nkune gave police a blow-by-blow account of the day he killed Gardee in a statement signed on August 13 last year. He told police that he met Gardee on Facebook and they started “dating” but he intended to rob her. After weeks of exchanging messages from Facebook to WhatsApp, they decided to meet on April 29 because he knew it was month-end and that she would have some money.

He added that after picking up Gardee and her 3-year-old adopted daughter in Riverside, Nelspruit, he drove towards the Lydenburg road. She asked where he was going, and he told her he was going to see someone.

“I was lying, knowing very well that I want to robbed (sic) her money," Nkune wrote in his confession.

Nkune said he drove towards Sabie and parked the car on the gravel road near a bush, where he told Gardee that it was a robbery and not a date, and that he wanted money.

But Gardee told him that she didn’t have money and even opened her bank account via her phone, which showed him that her balance was R1 500.50. He then made a cash send using Gardee’s phone, then drove to the nearest garage to withdraw the money.

As he was driving back to Nelspruit, he told Gardee that R1 500 wasn’t enough and he wanted more money. She then said she would WhatsApp her brother to ask for money.

Nkune claims that, as he was driving, Gardee jumped on him “grabbed me with my clothes and tore my T-shirt” before she jumped out of the car.

Nkune added that he pulled over, stopped the car and ran after Gardee before shooting her in the back of the head.

“I had shot Hillary on the back of head (sic) and she felt (sic) on the ground with her face on the ground. I had used my PX4 pistol to shoot Hillary. The firearm used was the one I robbed a traffic officer (of).”

Nkune claims he left Gardee in the bush and drove to Kamagugu township near Nelspruit where he dropped off the child and told her to ask for help at the nearest house.

He then proceeded to Nelspruit where he sold Gardee’s phone and laptop to a Nigerian national for R2 500. He says he was paid R2 000 on the spot and told to come back the following day for the R500.

Nkune also admitted that he shot and killed “my wife”, Pretty Mazibuko and her sister, Marcia, who was a police officer, on May 15, 2022 after an argument.

Nkune claims he mistakenly took Pretty for a thief because she got into his car without him noticing her as he was busy having an argument on the phone with Marcia, and started reversing the car and he fired one fatal shot. He then proceeded to the house, where Marcia was and shot her while she was sitting down. He used the same PX4 pistol stolen from the traffic officer.

Nkune claims that he went home and told his mother that he had killed some people, including his wife, before his friends drove him to Mozambique the following day, where he was hiding from the police.

Nkune took police to point out all the scenes where he committed the crimes on August 14, 2022, including the spot where he killed Gardee and robbed the traffic officer.

Another piece of information, seen by the “Sunday Independent”, contained in a police “success report” on the day Nkune was arrested, states that “information indicates that there’s a possibility that the suspect is wanted and will be linked to more than 20 cases in the province”.

The report added that Nkune had killed Gardee with a service firearm stolen from a traffic officer. Nkune was arrested in KwaThema, Springs, on August 11, 2022, days after he returned from Mozambique. Nkune had lured another woman to meet him on a date but again he intended to rob her of her Mercedes-Benz vehicle and sell it for cash.

Nkune allegedly strangled 27-year-old Nokuthula Nkosi and dumped her in a farm dam while she was still alive. She managed to identify him before she died after she was rescued by a farmworker.

Gardee’s father, Godrich, who is a former EFF secretary-general, is suing the state for R18-million for the grief and pain his family have suffered after the Correctional Services Department unlawfully released Nkune on parole months before he killed his daughter.

In their letter to Justice Minister,Ronald Lamola, Gardee’s family argue that Nkune should not have been released on parole as he had other pending cases and that “Hillary would not have been his victim, causing the family so much grief”.

Lamola was given 60 days to respond to the letter sent in October 2022 but he has yet to respond.

The National Prosecuting Authority and police this week failed to answer detailed questions sent to them regarding Nkune’s confession, pointing out of the scene and the gun stolen from a traffic officer that was used to kill three people, including Gardee.

The Gardee murder trial is scheduled to start in the High Court sitting in Mbombela in April. Lukhele, Mkhatshwa and Gama are trying to clear their names and get all charges against them related to this case dropped.