Ex-PMB cop gets suspended term for assault at border

2014-04-28 00:00

SA National Defence Force soldier Paul Jeke (40) was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment for murder, while former Pietermaritzburg policeman Morné Croeser (37) walked from court with a one-year suspended jail sentence hanging over his head for assault on Friday.

Judge Jerome Mnguni and an assessor convicted Jeke of shooting dead Sibekezelo Thembinkosi Ndlovu (20), a passenger in a bakkie that had evaded a roadblock at Ingwavuma where he and Croeser were on duty on June 8, 2010.

Croeser was convicted of assaulting the bakkie driver, Mthokozisi Manganyela (22), after he’d emerged from the bakkie and surrendered.

According to the evidence led at the trial, Manganyela had earlier decided to do a U-turn to avoid the roadblock on the day in question because he was using his father’s bakkie and didn’t have a driver’s licence.

Jeke and Croeser pursued the bakkie and forced it to a halt after Croeser had fired three warning shots towards it. When Ndlovu emerged from the passenger side he was shot dead by Jeke.

In his judgment, Mnguni rejected Jeke’s claim that he acted in self defence because he had mistakenly believed that Ndlovu was carrying a weapon in his hand when he fired.

The court, however, found there was insufficient evidence to prove that Croeser formed a common purpose with Jeke to murder Ndlovu, even if witnesses who testified that they heard him shout “Shoot, shoot” moments before the incident, were correct.

In his address prior to sentencing on Friday, state advocate Dorian Paver submitted the actions of both accused demonstrated a “wanton abuse of power”, and urged the judge to impose sentences that would send a message that South Africa had moved away from an era where a blind eye was turned towards actions like theirs.

Defence advocate Styx Madlala urged the court not to send Jeke, a father of six children, to jail for his deed, which he argued was not a deliberate act and was not premeditated.

However, imposing sentence on the two men, Judge Mnguni said the crimes were prevalent ones and were viewed in a very serious light by the court.

He said it was important to emphasise the evidence of forensic pathologist, Dr Steve Naidoo, who said the barrel of Jeke’s R4 rifle was just 40 cm from Ndlovu’s neck when he fired at him.

“It also needs to be emphasised that he was shot with a high velocity firearm by the accused [Jeke] who has more than 20 years service in the SANDF. On his [Jeke’s] own version he is trained in the handling of firearms and other weapons including the R4.”

The judge said the “callous” manner in which Jeke shot the victim was of concern to the court and said he could not find that there were any compelling or substantial circumstances that justified a deviation from the minimum prescribed sentence of 15 years imprisonment (for unpremeditated murder).

He said Croeser was in a different category because he was found guilty of the lesser crime of assault.

Croeser, a former member of the dog unit in Pietermaritzburg, was convicted in 2012 of murdering his wife, Erika, by stabbing her multiple times at their home in Albert Falls on August 28, 2010. He was sentenced to 23 years’ imprisonment.

The court found that after killing his wife he had stabbed himself in his abdomen to throw suspicion off himself.

Croeser is currently still on bail pending the outcome of his appeal, which is still to be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeals.

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