Judge tackles huge hijacking

2012-02-18 00:00

RETIRED KwaZulu-Natal Judge Jan Combrink has begun the mammoth task of unravelling complex and unique evidence in the trial of the alleged cash-in-transit gang dubbed the “KZN 26”.

The accused are charged with a total of 31 counts of murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, kidnapping, vehicle hijacking, theft of motor vehicles and other charges under the Arms Control Act.

During the trial in Pongola, which began in October 2007, one ofthe original 26 accused died. Well known KZN high court assessor Bruce Dalling also died.

The trial continued with only one assessor, Ian Reid.

Judgment started on February 13 amid tight security and is expected to continue for another three weeks.

Judge Combrink recorded that the trial “assumed monumental proportions” with a record of more than 7 000 pages, documentary exhibits comprising 12 000 pages and a “host of physical exhibits”.

“What makes this trial unique is the introduction of wide-ranging and detailed cellphone evidence by the state, which took considerable time and effort

“… suffice to say at the outset that some 72 000 calls were analysed in order to place the relevant evidence on record with various experts testifying with regard to the nature and reliability of information stored by the service providers of cellphones,” he added.

The case centres on two cash-in-transit heists that occurred on the N2 almost simultaneously but 30 km apart in October 2006 when armoured vehicles belonging to Fidelity Cash Management Services were ambushed, rammed with luxury cars and overturned. In one incident the robbers overturned the Fidelity van but failed to cut it open to gain access to the money. In the second, shortly afterwards, they stole R1,6 million.

Twenty-four of the suspects, travelling in four vehicles, were stopped and arrested at Mvoti toll plaza after they had allegedly met up and divided the money.

The first robbery occurred near the Charters Creek turnoff from the N2 and the other near Penicuik turnoff near Kwambonambi.

Vehicles were allegedly stolen to be used in the heist and later abandoned. After the cash vans were overturned surviving guards were shot at. Policemen who chanced upon the robbery scene near Charters Creek were also fired on and their police vehicle “riddled with bullets fired at short range”.

At the Penicuik turnoff similar offences occurred. After the armoured vehicle was forcibly capsized, crew members were shot at with heavy firearms intended to penetrate the armour behind which two Fidelity employees sheltered; motorists were kidnapped and vehicles hijacked, a security guard from Maxim Security was murdered and attempts made to kill two others at a stage when stolen vehicles used in the robbery were abandoned in a plantation.

All the accused pleaded not guilty.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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