Bail denied for alleged cable thieves

2012-12-07 00:00

THREE alleged copper cable thieves were denied bail in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Magistrate Reard Abrahams ruled it would not be in the interests of justice to release the men — Lindenkosi Xulu (34) of Ladysmith, Anton Chauke (33) of Soweto, and Mozambican Sipho Mchunu (29) — on bail, saying the case against them was strong and they were a flight risk.

A fourth accused, Moses Mashaba (30), who is also from Mozambique, did not apply for bail.

The four men are alleged to be involved in syndicates that target electrical and railway networks in the country.

Investigator Nico Smith of Combined Private Investigations — who was previously attached to the Hawks — told the court that KZN experienced an increase in this type of crime during June this year and many investigators, including him, were deployed to the area.

On July 18, in response to a report from Eskom about a power failure in the Hilton area, police and private investigators rushed to the scene.

Using night vision glasses, his colleagues saw three people running to the freeway, jump into a bakkie and drive off towards Pietermaritzburg. A chase ensued and the K9 police unit was called in to assist.

The vehicle was stopped in Northdale and the four men were arrested.

Mchunu allegedly tried to flee, but was caught within 300 metres.

At the scene, where high-voltage Eskom conductor cables were cut, investigators found rolls of conductor cables hidden in branches and recovered a hacksaw and bolt cutters.

Smith testified that although the copper cable (worth R720 000) was recovered, it could not be used again and had to be replaced.

He agreed that no incriminating items were found in the actual possession of the accused.

Abrahams said that although the case against the accused was circumstantial, it was a “strong” case.

He said the investigators were sure they had the right suspects and also confiscated the men’s clothing, which was allegedly stained with and smelled of copper residue.

There was also evidence that the men’s hands smelled of copper residue.

Abrahams said Smith was an experienced investigator who would “know what copper smells and looks like”.

The magistrate said neither Chauke nor Mchunu was able to produce an identity document, with the result that the court could not confirm their identity. If they were released from custody, police would not know where to find them.

Abrahams said the public had a far- reaching interest in the case, being affected by the theft of cable.

The men were remanded in custody pending their next appearance on January 18.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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