‘Strong case’ against cop

2009-12-23 00:00

THERE is a strong case against suspended SAPS Detective Inspector Michael Sokhela (40), accused in connection with the murder of Dr Warwick Dorning (55) who was shot dead in his farmhouse during a robbery on November 7, the Howick Magistrate’s Court was told yesterday.

Investigating officer Willem de Wet said this when opposing Sokhela’s bail application.

De Wet said the state’s case was bolstered as one of the murderers, Welcome Madlala (34), has agreed to testify for the state against Sokhela.

Madlala gave the undertaking when he pleaded guilty to Dorning’s murder.

He was jailed for life plus 15 years for robbery after deciding to “come clean” in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on November 27.

Co-perpetrator Mlungisi Hadebe (21) also pleaded guilty and was also jailed for life by Acting Judge Ben van Heerden.

They pleaded guilty to forming common purpose with the gunman, Sfamandla Madlala, who was shot dead at Cramond.

Dorning, who was a chief of staff in the premier’s office before taking early retirement, was in his kitchen when the gang invaded the Dorning farmhouse.

He ran to help his wife, Dawn, in a bedroom and was shot in the head.

Sokhela’s counsel, Advocate Louis Barnard, said the “high-water mark” in the state’s case against Sokhela is that he is guilty of the possession of stolen property and attempting to defeat the ends of justice. He said Sokhela should never have been charged with murder.

De Wet disagreed.

He handed a petition signed by 116 people protesting against bail for Sokhela to magistrate V.B. Zwane.

Petitioners oppose bail because: Sokhela’s release would provoke widespread outrage; the course of justice would be hindered; Sokhela has intimidated and influenced potential witnesses in other cases, and he has gone unpu­nished; and he has no regard for the police service of which he has been a member.

Among the allegations against him are attempted murder and assault. He has previously been suspended, but has not been charged.

De Wet said Sokhela is an aggressive man and several cases involving violence have been laid against him. They came to nothing because of poor investigation and the fact that he is a policeman whom his colleagues did not want to “nail”.

On a charge of driving under the influence, blood had to be drawn from him forcefully.

De Wet said the granting of bail would not stop Sokhela from intimidating potential witnesses as he could ignore restrictions placed on him by the court and go where he liked. He has friends in the police and he could obtain information.

De Wet said potential witnesses would not agree to testify if he is released on bail.

When the police heard that Sokhela had Dorning’s DVD player and a cellphone, they pounced and searched his house. They found an item under the blanket of a child in bed and another item in a pot in the kitchen.

Sokhela had to be restrained from venting his anger at the search.

When Madlala was arrested on November 14 and taken to the Howick police cells, investigators found Sokhela’s family speaking to Madlala. “When Sokhela saw us he ducked away.”

De Wet said he has been assigned to investigate all the cases in which Sokhela has been involved and found a lack of investigation. He said farmers have written that they had laid complaints, but they were not investigated, or were poorly handled.

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