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‘I took a butcher’s knife, cut off her legs and arms’: Gauteng man pleads guilty to killing girlfriend

Flavio Hlabangwane was arrested in November after the body parts were discovered inside the fridge in a back room he was renting in Protea Glen.

Flavio Hlabangwane was arrested in November after the body parts were discovered inside the fridge in a back room he was renting in Protea Glen.

PHOTO: Tebogo Monama/News24

WARNING: This story may upset sensitive readers.

  • A man has confessed to dismembering his cousin, who was also his girlfriend, but his guilty plea was rejected by the State.
  • Flavio Hlabangwane attempted to plead guilty to murder, not premeditated murder which carries a heavier sentence.
  • The court heard how he dismembered Tshepang Pitse, buried her head in a shallow grave and threw her torso in a river.

“I removed or dismembered the head, both arms and legs from the body.”

This formed part of the guilty plea of a man charged with killing and later dismembering the body of his cousin and lover, Tshepang Pitse, 23, two years ago.

Flavio Hlabangwane, 28, attempted to convince the Gauteng High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday to accept his guilty plea.

He murdered Pitse and later hid her head in a shallow grave in Randfontein between 6 October and 13 November 2021. 

He claimed he kept Pitse’s arms and legs inside a freezer on his property in Protea Glen.

Prosecutor advocate Johan Badenhorst opposed the guilty plea, saying Hlabangwane was only pleading guilty to a charge of murder, not premeditated murder.

Premeditated murder carries a heavier sentence.

Badenhorst then pleaded with Judge Cassim Moosa to allow the case to go to trial, where he would prove Hlabangwane planned Pitse’s murder.

In his guilty plea, Hlabangwane claimed he lived with Pitse and was in a romantic relationship with her.

“I admit that although I can’t remember the exact date, I took her bank card and went to buy food as I sometimes did.

“She didn’t have a problem with that. However, when I returned [that day], she confronted me about using her card without informing her. We then had an argument which quickly escalated.

“… during the argument, I pushed her, and she hit the back of her head on the corner of the stove. She then fell down. When she stood, I noticed she was bleeding. She advanced towards me. I managed to grab a knife. I stabbed her in the neck, and she died in seconds,” he said.

READ | Soweto body parts case: Family of dismembered woman too traumatised to attend court

Upon realising he had killed Pitse, Hlabangwane claimed he did not know what to do. 

“My first thought was to try and hide her body. I then dragged her lifeless body to the shower and cleaned up the blood on the floor where she had fallen and hit her head, intending to conceal what had happened.”

Hlabangwane added after cleaning up the blood, he left the house.

“I drove around, not knowing how I would dispose of her body. I went to a certain person I knew to buy drugs. I then went back to the shower and tried to drag her body to put it in the car’s boot. I was unable to do so. 

“It occurred to me that I would have to dismember her body to carry it to my car and dispose of it. I took a butcher’s knife and started cutting off her legs and arms.

“I then took drugs and continued dismembering the body. I took both her arms and legs, put them in black plastic bags and put them in the freezer.”

Hlabangwane said he took the head and torso, put them in a bag and drove away.

He went to an open field in Randfontein and buried the head in a shallow grave.

READ | Body parts in fridge: Court declares alleged murderer fit to stand trial

“I noticed the head wasn’t properly buried and would be easy for people to see it. I started digging again. I finally managed to bury it and left. I went to the Klip River and disposed of the torso.

“I returned home and cleaned the house using bleach. I later took clothes Pitse and I wore and went to an open veld nearby and burned them.

“I had intended to dispose of her arms and legs, which were in the freezer, as I didn’t want to bring attention to myself. Although I took drugs during that time, I could appreciate my actions or differentiate between right and wrong.”

Hlabangwane pleaded guilty to charges of murder, defeating or obstructing the course of justice and violating a corpse.

The court is hearing more evidence before it decides whether to accept his guilty plea.

Moosa allowed Badenhorst to call a witness, who testified against Hlabangwane.

The witness, whom the court ordered not to be identified, testified on Tuesday how Pitse complained to her about the physical abuse she was subjected to from Hlabangwane.

READ | Body parts in fridge: Court to receive psychiatric report after accused’s suicide attempts

“In the event of conviction, the sentence to be imposed could be life imprisonment unless compelling circumstances could make the court deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence.

“You pleaded guilty to murder which carries 15 years. The State doesn’t agree with your plea. They want to bring evidence that you are facing a premeditated murder charge,” Moosa warned Hlabangwane.

The trial continues on Thursday.

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