Escapee denies shooting policeman

2010-09-15 00:00

A MAN charged with murdering a police officer when he and an accomplice escaped from the Loop Street police cells 10 years ago told a Pietermaritzburg high court judge he was “forced” by his companion to escape.

Sunny Michael Mgwaba of Imbali pleaded not guilty before Judge Nic van der Reyden and assessors to the murder of the policeman, Sibusiso Bhengu, robbing him of keys to the cells at the Loop Street police station, and the attempted murder of a bystander, Bongani Makhathini.

Makhathini was allegedly shot at as the prisoners fled from the police station.

The incident happened on February 20, 2000.

Bhengu died in hospital six days after he was shot in the face and neck.

Under cross-examination yesterday, Mgwaba, whose trial is part heard, said he became “afraid” when he saw fellow prisoner Linda Dlamini produce a firearm and point it at the policeman.

The policeman had tripped while trying to throw away the cell keys, and Dlamini shot him, he said.

Mgwaba disputed evidence given by Dlamini earlier in the trial, to the effect that while Dlamini was struggling with the officer for possession of the cell keys, Mgwaba had shot the policeman.

“I could not fire a shot while they were struggling … Then I would have shot both of them,” said Mgwaba.

He said that when Dlamini told him to run away after the shooting he obeyed because he was scared of Dlamini.

The court heard the two men caught a taxi to Durban. They remained in hiding for four months in Durban and in Johannesburg.

• Linda Dlamini is serving a sentence of life imprisonment for Bhengu’s murder as well as other charges to which he pleaded guilty in 2008.

He was sentenced while in a wheelchair to which he was confined after his leg was crushed during another bid to escape from Pietermaritzburg prison during 2007.

In his guilty plea, Dlamini said he and Mgwaba had planned to escape from the police cells on the day in question and arranged for a friend to provide them with a firearm.

The friend, Bongani, brought a gun to them in a food package.

When Bhengu asked to inspect the parcel, Dlamini produced the firearm.

Dlamini said he and Bhengu struggled for possession of the cell keys and the policeman had “almost” overpowered him.

Mgwaba then grabbed the gun and shot at Bhengu, who fell to the ground.

 

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