In July 2004, South Africa was thrown into mourning after the highly publicized abduction and gruesome murder of Leigh Matthews, a then 21-year-old BCom student at Bond University. Donovan Moodley later became the main suspect and was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty. Here are all the facts regarding the convicted murderer and the progress of the case.
South Africa has one of the highest criminal and murder rates across the continent. However, the story of slain Leigh Matthews received extensive media attention, and its effect has never died. In June 2021, the country was reminded of the heinous crime when the victim’s father, Rob Matthews, released a statement opposing the decision to grant his daughter’s killer parole.
Donovan Moodley's profile summary
- Full name: Donovan Moodley
- Year of birth: 1980
- Donovan Moodley's age: 41 years in 2021
- Place of birth: Alberton, South Africa
- Nationality: South African
- Ethnicity: Indian
- Relationship status: Single
- Former girlfriend: Yeshika Singh
- Donovan Moodley's parents: Stephen and Mary Moodley
- Education: Bond University
- Criminal status: Convicted murderer
- Donovan Moodley’s victim: Leigh Matthews
- Sentence period: Life in prison
- Known for: The kidnap and murder of a university student, Leigh Matthews, in 2004
- Is Donovan Moodley still alive? He is alive as of 2021
Early life and education
The convict was born in 1980 in Alberton, South Africa to Mary and Stephen Moodley. He has a sister called Michal. Donovan Moodley's family has been supportive of their son, but his father admitted to feeling ashamed of being associated with a heinous crime.
Donovan is said to have been a student at Bond University South Africa in Sandton at the time of his arrest. The university closed its doors in 2004. He later enrolled at UNISA to pursue a law degree while imprisoned.
Donovan Moodley's fiancé
The convict had proposed to his then-girlfriend Yeshika Singh before his arrest for the murder of Leigh. He broke off the engagement after eight years of dating upon realizing that he would be behind bars for a long time. She has since left South Africa and resides in the Czech Republic.
The murder of Leigh Matthews
On 9th July 2004, Leigh Matthews, a then Bcom student at Bond University, was abducted from her school’s parking area. The abductors then sought a ransom of R300,000 from the victim’s father, businessman Rob Matthews.
Rob paid them R50,000, but his daughter never came back home. Two weeks later, on 21st July 2004, Leigh’s lifeless and naked body was found by a municipal worker in Walkerville Johannesburg. Her body had four gunshot wounds and appeared to have been frozen.
Retired investigating officer Piet Byleveld later identified Donovan Moodley, a then 24-year-old student at Bond University, as the main suspect.
Donovan Moodley's sentence
On 5th July 2005, Moodley pleaded guilty to murder, abduction, and money extortion at a Johannesburg High Court. The presiding judge, Joop Labuschagne, sentenced him to life imprisonment for killing, ten years for extortion, and 15 years for kidnapping. The judge noted that he had accomplices who might have gotten away with murder.
Soon after the sentence, Donovan changed his account and said he was framed. In his application for retrial, he claimed that three drug dealers were the masterminds of the crime. He had only pleaded guilty to protect his family from them and that the former investigating officer Piet Byleveld had forced him to take the blame. His numerous applications for appeal were dismissed.
Where is Donovan Moodley now?
The convict is serving a life sentence in prison. His efforts to appeal have been thwarted, but he vows to continue fighting for his freedom.
When will Donovan Moodley be released? In June 2021, reports emerged that the convict could be released soon due to a pending parole hearing. Leigh Matthew’s family and Women and Men Against Child Abuse (WMACA) are against it because their daughter’s murderer is yet to disclose the whole story and has shown no remorse.
The Department of Correctional Services said they are still in talks with Matthew’s family, and a decision to grant parole has not been made.
Donovan Moodley’s illness
The convicted killer is said to have been ill and made frequent visits to the prison doctors. He lost considerable weight and also suffers from a degenerative eye condition. Former detective Piet Byleveld hoped his deteriorating health would make him unravel the murder mystery, but he seems focused on protecting his partners in crime.
It has been seventeen years since the murder of the 21-year-old Leigh Matthews, but many questions are yet to be answered. Donovan Moodley has never revealed his accomplices, and his ever-changing accounts make the case more blurry.
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