Cash heist murder trial begins

2015-05-01 17:32

THE trial of three men charged with the murder of a Richmond policeman and a security guard during a botched cash heist, began last Friday.

Thulani Doncabe (40), Siboniso Mpanza (20) and Sandile Shongwe (34) pleaded not guilty to a number of charges against them, opting to remain silent and not disclose their defence at this stage of the trial.

In her opening address to the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Thursday, prosecutor Candy Kander said the state would seek to prove that the trio were part of a group of assailants who, in a well orchestrated manner, set about to rob the Capitec Bank in the Richmond CBD.

The men are accused of the murders of Sergeant Thamsanqa Zondi, son of Inkosi Nsikayezwe Zondi, the chief of a vast area in Pietermaritzburg and a G4S security guard, Izak Phungula.

They were alleged to be part of an armed gang that tried to rob guards loading cash into an ATM at Capitec Bank in Shepstone Street, Richmond, on January 27 2014.

Phungula was shot at the ATM and Zondi was shot when he cornered the gang later after the botched heist. Other policemen were injured in the shoot-out. Three of the gang members were shot dead by police.

The indictment reflects two charges of theft, one count of robbery with aggravating circumstances, five counts of murder, 14 counts of attempted murder of policemen and innocent bystanders and the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Kander said the state would lead evidence that on January 27, 2014 the G4S security guards arrived at the bank to fill an ATM.

Phungula went into the bank and emerged with a cash box filled with R300 000 to put into the ATM vault.

Phungula was unaware the gang was watching him. They were allegedly in a stolen Toyota RunX and Corolla, as well as a Toyota Hilux bakkie that belonged to one of the robbers.

“This was a well-planned robbery. The get-away vehicles were stolen days before the heist,” Kander said.

As Phungula unlocked the vault, he was confronted by the robbers, armed with AK-47 and R-5 rifles as well as handguns.

They opened fire on Phungula, killing him instantly.

Richmond police gave chase, which resulted in a dramatic shoot-out through the streets of the town. Four bystanders were injured in the exchange of gunfire.

The robbers fled, before lying in wait in the Smozomeni area. As the police approached, the robbers opened fire on them.

Zondi was hit in the head and died on the scene and two policemen were wounded. The suspects fled into nearby bush. Members of the Public Order Policing unit went in search of the men and found one of them. He opened fire on the police, who retaliated. The suspect, Andile Hlongwane, was killed.

The other robbers, who fled in the Hilux, were pursued by Richmond police.

They were stopped by a police roadblock in Phatheni and fled into a nearby sugar-cane plantation. One of the suspects, identified as Siphithemba Mtshali, was shot dead.

Dog unit members followed the remaining suspects into the plantation. A suspect, identified as Senzo Mtolo, was found and he fired on police. He too, was shot dead. Doncabe and Mpanza were found in the plantation and arrested.

The trial is proceeding before Judge Rishi Seegobin.

- Supplied

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