Cops accused of 'racial profiling' suspect

2014-03-30 18:05
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Mbombela - An Mpumalanga man accused of shooting two men, killing one of them, walked free on Friday due to police incompetence and racial profiling.

Arnold Bonwana Mthethwa (35), from Bushbuckridge, was arrested on 3 June 2010, after he was accused of shooting dead George Frederick Cronje and wounding his friend, Charles Louis Slabbert, in Komatipoort.

Mthethwa had pleaded not guilty to murder and attempted murder and was out on R1 000 bail.

The court heard that Mthethwa shot the two men in self-defence during a road rage attack on 3 June 2010, thirty minutes after midnight.

During judgement in the Nelspruit Regional Court on Friday, Magistrate Erwin Sithole questioned police incompetence during their investigation.

"After he shot them, it is on record that he went to report the matter to Komatipoort police, only to be arrested and charged with the crime," he said.

The magistrate said after arresting him, police failed to thoroughly investigate what exactly started the fight.

"The investigation team did not check his vehicle for the murder weapon, or check for blood samples in the car for testing to determine who it belonged to.

"They also did not see whether the accused's vehicle was also shot at. There is evidence it was shot at and what remains is who exactly shot at the accused's vehicle." he said.

The magistrate said the investigating team said the police dog used could not find the murder weapon in his vehicle.

"This shows the vehicle was not searched at all, an indication that police failed to do their job," he said.

He said the investigating team did not involve the accused in the reconstruction of the incidences related to the crime.

"It is on record that during the attack, both victims were under the influence of liquor, in a manner that Slabbert could not even remember his own name. The way the crime scene was visited by the team was totally incompetent and one-sided.

"The accused was never allowed to make inputs during the entire investigation. There is also more evidence from another witness that a wrist watch belonging to one of the victims, and blood, were found in the accused's vehicle," Sithole said.

He said the court did not get any explanation from both the victim and police team on how the blood and the watch ended inside accused's vehicle.

"The accused testified he shot at the two men after they assaulted him. He explained clearly that he did not know them. He suspected one of them to be carrying a firearm," the magistrate said.

He said Slabbert testified they attacked the accused after they suspected he was a hijacker.

"This version by Slabbert is far-fetched. The accused's testimony is the only probable version in this case. He did not have prior knowledge of the victims.

"When he went to report about the attack at Komatipoort Police Station, he was arrested because of the colour of his skin," he said.

Sithole said the version by police that he handed himself over to them is also far-fetched.

"There are unanswered questions about the watch and the blood found in his vehicle. Accused said it belonged to Slabbert but court has no proof whom it belonged to and how did it end there," the magistrate said.

The magistrate said police failed dismally in their investigation and acquitted Mthethwa of all the charges.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  crime
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