‘Axeman’ sobs in court

2011-04-08 00:00

BEWILDERED, frightened and clutching a Bible, accused axe murderer Phindile Joseph Ntshongwana was physically forced out of the holding cells to make a brief appearance at the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

The former Blue Bulls rugby player had to be restrained by a team of task force policemen, dwarfing them as he pushed his way back into the cells, cowering and sobbing as he retreated, his pants apparently soiled with urine.

Ntshongwana was arrested last Tuesday after an alleged two-week killing spree in which a man was decapitated and two others killed.

Magistrate Anita Naidoo listened attentively to Ntshongwana’s father as he explained the reason for his son’s behaviour in the packed courtroom.

“He’s sick your honour, my son needs help,” said Liston Ntshongwana, a former Springbok himself and respected businessman in the Eastern Cape.

“My son has a history of bi-polar [disorder] and schizophrenia, and he was diagnosed two years ago. He has been under strict observation, but alas, he is an adult — we couldn’t treat him like a prisoner. We did not expect this,” he said.

The accused did not have legal representation present at the time because of his inability to stand in court.

“He relapsed overnight; we need to treat him before he’s fit to stand again,” added Ntshongwana senior.

He addressed media, begging them for co-operation, as his tearful daughter Luleka stood by his side.

“We are begging reporters to give us our space; we too want justice to take its course. Joseph is our boy, he is sick and he needs professional help and prayers. This is terrible for all of us.”

In the background a man could be heard crying above the quiet meeting in the court foyer. The man, Zamokuhle Mkhize, is the brother of Stelo Mkhize, one of the victims. He said the police have yet to find his brother’s head.

The accused’s sister then addressed the families of the deceased in an emotional statement.

“This is not the brother I grew up with; I don’t know how to console you people, but all I can say is that we are suffering with you. We need to unite in this difficult time,” one of the victims’ family members, a woman, hugged her, saying that she understands.

A long-time friend of the accused, and team member who played rugby with him at provincial level, described “Jo” as a “cool cat”.

“Jo was always laid back, but there was something peculiar about him in that his mood would change without warning. But as his friends we knew to just ignore him, and it would blow over.”

The case has been adjourned until April 14, while the accused undergoes observation and receives treatment for his condition.

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