Ace crime buster caught killer within hours of slayings

2013-01-23 00:00

IT took one policeman just shy of eight hours to catch a killer who on Monday was sentenced to three life sentences.

Sterling work by Lieutenant Sizwe Makhathini of the Mountain Rise police station led to the arrest of Erwin Ramsamuj of Northdale less than eight hours after he had killed his girlfriend and two men.

Ramsamuj (21) was sentenced to three life terms by the high court in Pietermaritzburg on Monday for the murder of Merle Maistry, Kubendran “Jeff” Pillay and Musawenkosi Ndlovu in Pillay’s home in May 2011.

Makhathini, of the Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, is described as a dedicated officer with 26 years’ experience and a number of murder convictions to his name. He has not lost a case in the Pietermaritzburg high court since 1997.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, he described the Ramsamuj case as one of the most difficult he had worked on.

“This guy was a stalker. He is the type of person who counts and looks around [to make sure] that there is no one to see him before he does anything.

“Even on the day he killed, he did not take any evidence with him. He even left the gun at the scene. He did not leave through the front door; instead he went out the kitchen door down a passage and out of the area.”

Armed with only the evidence of a 10-year-old boy, which could be treated with caution by a court, Makhathini said he knew he had to dig deep to solve the case. By gathering evidence, collecting statements and observing Ramsamuj’s behaviour, he said, he knew Ramsamuj was responsible.

“We learnt that his girlfriend was going to report him for having an unlicensed firearm. He had argued with her earlier because of a cellphone and prior to the shooting he had been seen there.

“After the shooting, he came back to the scene. We had identified him as he stood for about 15 minutes watching what was happening. Then he became emotional, wanting to get into the house, saying his girlfriend was in there.

“We noticed he had changed the clothes he was wearing a few hours earlier and he tried to create a false alibi that he was at a tavern, which the police were able to see through.

“We questioned him and within eight hours we had recovered enough evidence to make an arrest.”

During the trial the defence had submitted different theories of the crime, but the prosecution was able to present sound evidence of what and how the killing had happened.

“We were able to present the clothes he was wearing during the shooting; they had bloodstains on them.”

The prosecution team reconstructed the crime scene using Google maps to show the routes that Ramsamuj had taken to and from the house, which disproved his alibi that he had been at a tavern during the shooting.

Makhathini said he felt satisfaction when Ramsamuj was sentenced and the victims’ relatives expressed their gratitude.

Mountain Rise station commander Brigadier Francis Bantham said: “This was meticulous police work … from securing the crime scene to gathering evidence.”

She described Makhathini as one of the dedicated police officers at Mountain Rise who were behind the declining murder rate in their precinct. “People know that if you kill in Mountain Rise, you will get life.”

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