Cop among five found guilty of 2009 cash heist

2014-01-08 00:00

FIVE men, including a policeman, are expected to learn their fate today after being found guilty of a string of charges arising from a cash heist on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith in 2009.

They are Jerody Mthimunye, Philemon Nhleko, Ewat Xaba, Zikethela Sokhela, and a Ladysmith police sergeant, Siyabonga Nkwanyana.

The gang deliberately drove a stolen Toyota truck head-on into a G4 security van, forcing it off the road on October 10, 2009, ending in the death of three people, including a gang member.

They used explosives to blast open the rear of the van and access the money, before fleeing with R692 132.

Judge Anton van Zyl with two assessors yesterday found that all five men on trial in the high court conspired to carry out the robbery.

He said that because all of them must have realised the risk to human life that was inherent in their brazen plan, each of them was also guilty of the murders of those who died.

They were the driver of the G4S vehicle, George van Tonder, a security guard, Sibusiso Phakathi and one of the robbers, Ottoman Msimango Mhlekaze, who was in the truck that rammed into the cash vehicle.

The judge said it was clearly always the robbers’ plan to use the Toyota truck — which was stolen from Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape — to carry out the heist.

All those involved in the plot would also have been aware that explosives were going to be used to gain access to the money containers.

He acquitted the five accused only on one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances for “commandeering” the four-wheel drive vehicle belonging to motorist Deborah Shabalala at the robbery scene, saying that they clearly had not intended to deprive her permanently of the vehicle.

Their purpose for taking it had been to use it to pull apart the wreckage in order to free one of the robbers who was trapped as a result of the collision.

Shabalala testified that the robbers demanded her keys, but told her they would return her vehicle to her again, and they in fact did so.

While Mthimunye, Nhleko, Xaba, and Sokhela were all found to have been present during the robbery, the court found that Nkwanyana’s role was different.

He was found to have helped pass information on the movements of police once they were aware of the robbery, and to have transported an injured robber to Germiston in a double-cab bakkie.

In his evidence, Nkwanyana admitted to passing through a toll plaza — where he was captured on video footage driving the bakkie — and to transporting a person lying down and covered by a blanket.

The court rejected his version that the person was a hitchhiker he had given a lift to, and that his journey was innocent.

Sentencing will take place today.

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