Police need help with cases

2008-05-12 00:00

THE success in police investigations that may lead to an arrest relies on public information and crime scene evidence, SAPS spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said recently.

Budhram was responding to Witness questions regarding several murders in the midlands that have not been solved in the past three months.

Some of the unsolved murders attracted huge public interest due to either the nature of the crime or the status and age of victims.

In January, the bodies of Pakistani immigrant and club cricketer Sher Khan and the Ngwenya couple, Khaya and Patience, were found at the Ngwenya house. Ngwenya’s business on Longmarket is under new ownership.

The mystery surrounding their deaths is yet to be fully unravelled.

In the same month, a woman’s naked body was found bound with a wire at a sports field near Harry Gwala Stadium. The woman was later identified as Senzekile Shange. Her sister, Nomkhosi Shange, has since fled her home in Dambuza area.

Neighbours told The Witness that she fled to Johannesburg because she feared that her sister’s killers would come after her. She is renting out the three-room shack she shared with her sister.

In April, two teenage girls were found dead at the Azalea cemetery.

In Howick a young child, Nombuso Nhlangulela, was found bound and masked several days after she went missing.

In March, two people were found dead and their identities and killers remain unknown.

Apart from the Ngwenya house murder mystery, no developments have happened in the other investigations.

“We cannot rule out the possibility that Khan was killed by the Ngwenyas, but certain forensic examinations done at the house will determine what exactly happened.”

In Nombuso’s case a reward was offered, but no helpful information has come forward.

Nombuso’s father, Themba Nhlangulela, earlier accused the police of not doing enough in their investigation. Nhlangulela alleged that the police failed to respond timeously to his daughters’ reported disappearance.

Speaking to The Witness recently, he blamed the police again for dragging their feet in the investigation.

“I am not happy at the pace of the police investigation.

“I contacted them and gave them information that I believed would be helpful, but I have received no feedback from the police. It seems as if they have not done anything,” he said.

According to Budhram, apart from the evidence gathered on the crime scene, police rely on informants to provide valuable information on most cases.

He said an investigation has two phases.

“When everything has been done at the scene, the initial part of the investigation is complete.

“The secondary part of the investigation is searching for the suspect, and that is when informers are activated.”

He said the investigation often depends on the information provided by informants for success.

“If the investigation is not successful, the case remains [open] and is put on hold until such time that an arrest is made,” he said.

Budhram said murder cases are never closed. “Where life imprisonment [will be sought] the case is never closed, but minor cases are kept for 20 years.”

He said police investigations are sometimes delayed due to the queues at the forensic laboratory.

“We have one forensic laboratory that deals with all evidential samples throughout the country and sometimes it takes a while for the results to return.”

Johan Burger, a senior researcher for the Crime and Criminal Justice programme at the Institute Security Studies (ISS), said police are doing reasonably well in solving murder cases, but have achieved a disappointingly low conviction rate.

“South Africa is not different from most other countries: we have achieved a relatively high rate between 40 and 50% in solving murder cases, but have a disappointingly low conviction rate … below 20%,” said Burger.

He said the reason for the failed convictions is two-fold.

“It’s a combination of poor detective work and inexperienced prosecutors. Police sometimes fail to collect evidence and present a prima facie case in court and some prosecutors are not experienced enough to deal with these cases.”

sandilez@witness.co.za

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