Court hears about rifle in Soweto killing

2012-08-23 16:52
Sipho Mbatha in the South Gauteng High Court. (File, Sapa)

Sipho Mbatha in the South Gauteng High Court. (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Much skill was needed to fire a single round from an R-5 rifle set on full automatic, the South Gauteng High Court heard on Thursday.

Ballistic expert Eugene Lurie said it would be extremely difficult to fire one shot from the automatic rifle.

"The gun can fire around 10.8 rounds per second and 650 shots in a minute."

Lurie was testifying about the R-5 rifle used in the killing of Thato Mokoka, 16. Seven shots were fired from the weapon.

The rifle was entered as evidence in the trial of student Constable Sipho Mbatha, accused of shooting dead Mokoka outside his grandmother's house in Bramfischerville, Soweto, on February 14.

Mbatha has pleaded not guilty to the murder charge against him. He claims the rifle accidentally went off as he bent down to search a prone Mokoka.

During cross-examination, Lurie said if someone holding the firearm pointed it downwards with a finger in the trigger area, the weight of the gun could cause the trigger to be pressed.

On Wednesday, the court was told the rifle likely stopped shooting because a single bullet jammed it.

"If that bullet hadn't got stuck, the gun would have continued firing until the magazine was emptied or until the handler removed his finger from the trigger," said Lurie.

He agreed with an earlier witness, Warrant Officer Lewis Matlala, who said the rifle was not handled correctly.

Police came to the Mokoka residence with two boys and two women, who alleged the teen was part of a gang that had been terrorising local residents, and that he had a firearm.

In earlier proceedings, a friend of Mokoka's said the teen was part of a group called the Boys with Advices (sic), but denied that they terrorised the community.

The gun police were searching for was not found on the day.

The trial continues.
- SAPA

Read more on:    police  |  thato mokoka  |  sipho mbatha  |  johannesburg  |  soweto
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