Axe-attack witnesses adamant

2012-11-21 00:00

THE body of Paulus Hlongwa was found at a traffic circle in Durban’s Lamontville township on March 22 last year.

For warrant officer Protas Mbele, two things stood out at the scene — Hlongwa was missing not only a shoe, but also his head.

The latter was found the same night a kilometre away in a dustbin, the discovery a chance one made by a homeless man foraging for food.

As police took charge of both scenes, it fell to Hlongwa’s fiancé to identify his body and head.

Mbele yesterday testified about the gruesome events in the Durban High Court, where former Blue Bulls rugby player Phindile Ntshongwana stands accused of being a serial killer.

Nombuso Hadebe, who witnessed a man “chopping” at something from her bedroom window less than 15 metres away at 11 pm, identified

Ntshongwana as the killer.

But defence attorney Themba Mjoli challenged her observations, saying the poor lighting and vegetation would have made it “almost impossible” to identify Ntshongwana.

Hadebe was adamant, though, that the thickset man “with the big build and light complexion” occupying the dock was the one hacking at Hlongwa’s body on the night.

Ntshongwana is accused of four murders, two attempted murders, one serious assault, a kidnapping and rape.

Apart from the last three counts, which prosecutors say happened in November two years ago, the others occurred over a period of about one week last March.

Ntshongwana pleaded not guilty to all charges on Monday and his defence will rely on his alleged failure to remember any of the events owing to a troubled psychotic state.

The court has already established he is fit to stand trial.

Testimony was also led by Umbilo resident Sihle Mhlongo, who said Ntshongwana looked into his eyes after a prolonged attack on a man in front of his house.

The victim was Simon Ngidi, killed the night after Hlongwa died. Attempts were made to decapitate him as well.

Mhlongo said he watched the brutal attack from his bedroom window and after five to 10 minutes he opened his front door and shouted at the assailant. The killer stopped, looked at him and then fled.

Under cross-examination, Mjoli asked Mhlongo if he had not mistakenly identified Ntshongwana.

“There is no way I would ever forget the face of that person …” he said.

The last witness was a 27-year-old student from Nongoma, who was allegedly kidnapped for four days by Ntshongwana and raped.

Members of the public were asked to protect the identity of the victim.

Ntshongwana’s parents and sister, held vigil at a table behind him while consulting self-help books like Deepak Chopra’s The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.

They reluctantly left the courtroom after a brief confrontation with prosecutor Rea Mina.

The witness, struggling through sobs, told how Ntshongwana coerced her into his car in Durban and took her to his house in Yellowwood Park.

All the time he probed her with strange questions, like: “Why are you doing this to me?”

“In my mind he was saying things as if I should have known him,” said the woman. At his house, he locked her in his bedroom and forced her to disrobe.

Her testimony ended the day’s proceedings.

The trial continues today with other witnesses.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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