Signed out of ‘fear’

2014-06-10 00:00

ONE of the men on trial for the murder of Underberg timber harvester Dan Knight testified yesterday he has no idea how police got details about the farm attack that are contained in a statement he signed.

Tsepiso Sthembiso Ramonyane (20) alleges he was forced to sign the statement — without knowing its contents — out of fear of being assaulted further by police.

The statement tells of a meeting between Ramonyane, “Nyawose” and “Happy” at a tavern, and states that Nyawose “had a plan to attack a certain farm in Underberg”.

It describes how they made their way to the farm.

“I was carrying a knife. Nyawose was carrying a hammer and Happy didn’t carry a weapon,” the document states.

On arrival at the farm, they found the door of the house was not locked.

“I pushed it open … the two guys, Nyawose and Happy, were following me. The victims were so scared they pushed dishes with food on our faces but they missed us,” it says.

According to the statement, the victims were tied up with shoelaces. They told the robbers their money was in the bank.

“The male was so aggressive and the lady was co-operating with us. I guarded the male whilst Nyawose was hitting him with a hammer on his body and knees.”

Ramonyane (20), Bonginkosi Eric Nyawose (33) and Happy Gcina (24) have pleaded not guilty to all charges and deny any knowledge of the incident.

Ramonyane and Nyawose are currently contesting the admissibility of their alleged confessions, which the state wants to introduce into evidence at their trial.

Both men claim they were severely assaulted in police custody and forced to sign statements without knowing what the contents were.

Knight was bludgeoned to death with a hammer and other weapons, and his life partner, Beth Bucher, testified that she was also subjected to brutal assaults by members of a gang who burst into their farmhouse and robbed them on the night of October 17 last year.

Ramonyane told Judge Jerome Mnguni and an assessor yesterday that he was together with a state witness in the case, Thabo Dlamini, watching TV when police kicked open the door on October 20 last year and arrested them.

He testified that he was hit with the butts of firearms and assaulted with torches by the police so badly that he bled from his head, nose and his ears, and his face and eyes were swollen. As a result of the assaults on him, both his eyes are still blue to this day, he testified.

Ramonyane said his eyes were still visibly swollen when he appeared in court for the first time at Himeville and said he told the magistrate he’d been assaulted by police. The magistrate simply told him he should discuss it with his attorney.

Ramonyane said he didn’t report the assaults to the doctor who examined him before and after he signed the alleged confession, and who found only slight bruising on Ramonyane’s back.

He said he could not do so as there was a policeman present.

Ramonyane alleged for the first time yesterday that the officer who allegedly forced him to sign the statement, Captain J.J. Zakwe, had also assaulted him by hitting him on his back when he didn’t want to sign.

The case is proceeding.

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