Attempted murder conviction for fatal Kraaifontein cop shooting

2015-10-07 16:26
The two men accused of murdering police officer Rozelle Witbooi, Mbongiseni Sithelo and Sicelo Kwayimani. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

The two men accused of murdering police officer Rozelle Witbooi, Mbongiseni Sithelo and Sicelo Kwayimani. (Jenna Etheridge, News24)

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Cape Town – Despite a fatal gunshot to a Cape Town policewoman’s head, the Western Cape High Court could only find a man guilty of attempted murder on Wednesday.

Mbongiseni Sithelo and Sicelo Kwayimani, both 29, were charged with acting in common purpose to kill Constable Rozelle Witbooi last February.

A shoot-out took place after she and a colleague, Constable Jonathan Koopman, responded to an alert about a robbery taking place at a vegetable farm on the outskirts of Kraaifontein.

The officers had confronted the pair at an intersection about a kilometre away from the farm.

Acting Judge Sakkie Maartens said on Wednesday that he and his assessors had closely scrutinised Koopman’s evidence.

They had come to the “inescapable conclusion” that great doubt existed as to whether the first shot fired by Sithelo had caused the fatal injury.

Deadly projectile never recovered

“We are simply not in a position to reach a finding beyond reasonable doubt as to which accused pulled the trigger that tragically ended Rozelle Witbooi’s life.”

Maartens said last week that the projectile that killed the officer was never recovered.

The men were acquitted of murder but Sithelo was convicted on two counts of attempted murder. The first attempted murder related to Witbooi and the second to Koopman, who was shot at but not wounded.

On that fatal day last year, a gang of men targeted the farm and stole a phone, laptop and other items from the farmhouse worth about R30 000.

Twelve employees, who were cleaning and packing vegetables in a nearby storeroom, were robbed of their phones. They were then locked in a walk-in cold room, not in use at the time, for up to an hour.

Maartens said in his judgment there could be no doubt that at least six men participated in the robbery. He found both men guilty of a single charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances but acquitted them of kidnapping.

Charles Ndlovu, a third man linked to the robbery charges, was only arrested last month.

The court also convicted Sithelo on charges of illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Maartens rejected the men’s versions that they were innocent passers-by who were caught in crossfire.

Sentencing arguments would be heard next week.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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