Shaw finally granted bail

2008-03-01 00:00

Fifty-seven-year-old Hilton Shaw — who has spent six months in custody awaiting trial on a charge that he murdered his wife Susan at their remote Nottingham Road property on June 3 last year — was granted bail of R100 000 following his appeal to the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.

Howick magistrate Nhlanhla Mpanza had previously turned down three bail applications by Shaw.

Judge Anton van Zyl yesterday said the difficulty the high court had was that Mpanza gave very brief judgments in each of the applications, making it hard to determine the reasons that led him to his conclusion in each application.

He was, therefore, driven to conclude that he gave inadequate consideration to the applications.

He said this did not automatically mean that Shaw had to be given bail, but allowed the high court to examine the background of the case afresh.

He stressed the purpose of a bail application was not to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

Judge Van Zyl said at this stage it appeared that the state’s investigations were largely complete and the trial set to proceed in the high court in May.

Witnesses in the case had already committed themselves to their version and it appeared to him that the likelhood that Shaw could interfere with the state’s case was "fairly remote". He was not a "career criminal" or a person who had dabbled in crime.

"The charge is that on the fateful day, for reasons that at this stage can only be speculated upon, the state alleges that he killed his wife. The probabilities suggest it was probably a crime of passion, if indeed he did kill his wife," the judge said.

He said there was nothing at this stage to suggest that Shaw was likely to interfere with state witnesses or not stand his trial. Every accused facing serious charges has an incentive to escape and leave the country, he said.

Van Zyl said Shaw has spent his entire life in South Africa and any resources he can muster are in this country.

There was also no evidence to suggest he had the means to sustain himself if he fled and took up life as a fugitive, although state advocate Dorian Paver had suggested that he might be funded by his children.

"These are possibilities but not necessarily probabilities," said Van Zyl.

He said it was in the interests of justice to grant Shaw bail. He was ordered to report to police at Westville twice weekly.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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