"What happened in this case is truly awful. It was the stuff of nightmares."
A year after he walked into a police station with a bag of human remains and declared that he was “tired of eating human flesh,” a South African cannibal has been sentenced to life in prison.
Police apparently had some trouble believing Nino Mbatha’s declaration at first, as he reportedly looked unstable when he walked into the station in Estcourt last August. But when he pulled a human leg out of a bag, authorities started taking him seriously.
After revealing the human leg to authorities, Mbatha took police officers to his home in the town of Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal province, where more human remains were discovered.
Now, after more than a year, Mbatha, a 33-year-old traditional healer, and another man named Lungisani Magubane, 32, were sentenced to life in prison on Dec. 12 by Pietermaritzburg High Court judge Peter Olsen. Olsen said that these two men were guilty of “the most heinous crime,” according to The Guardian.
The case has caused a massive public uproar in Estcourt, where citizens have gathered outside of the courthouse to express their disgust.
The two had been charged with the murder of Zanele Hlatshwayo, whose remains were found at the home that Mbatha led authorities to following his confession at the police station. “Photos of the room depicted a disgusting mess,” the judge said of the evidence found at that home.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Natasha Ramkissoon-Kara told CNN that Mbatha denied saying he ate human flesh shortly after his arrest and prosecutors decided to try his case as murder instead.
There is no explicit law stating that cannibalism is a crime in South Africa but mutilating a corpse and being in possession of dismembered human remains is a criminal offense.
According to an indictment that has been seen by CNN, Magubane approached Mbatha for some sort of traditional medicine, also referred to as “muti” in South Africa. Magubane apparently was seeking the medicine to obtain good fortune, at which point Mbatha then suggested that they obtain a woman or child for the cause.
Mbatha said that a woman or child was necessary because the “ancestors insisted that blood needed to be spilled.”
At that point, Mbatha apparently found his target in Hlatshwayo, who was 25 when she was murdered. Mbatha allegedly carried out the murder with the assistance of Magubane. After she was murdered, prosecutors say that Hlatshwayo’s body was dismembered and parts of her remains were used to make the traditional medicine.
“What happened in this case is truly awful. It was the stuff of nightmares. How one would react in such circumstances is unpredictable. One may well want to unburden oneself of guilt, but later have second thoughts,” Olsen said according to Witness news.
A third man was also involved in this “cannibal case,” according to CNN. And although all three men denied all of the charges against them, only the third man was completely acquitted of all charges.
Mbatha and Magubane, on the other hand, will spend the rest of their lives in prison.