I was set up, says Donovan Moodley

2012-01-25 14:42

Johannesburg - Convicted murderer Donovan Moodley claimed in the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday that he was forced to confess to the murder of Leigh Matthews.

During his application for a retrial, Moodley said he was denied a lawyer when investigating officer Piet Byleveld interrogated him.

"He said there would be no lawyers until he was finished with me."

Moodley said he initially told Byleveld and seven other policemen that three drug dealers - called Frank, Allie, and Jemba - had orchestrated the kidnap and murder of 21-year-old Matthews on July 9 2004.

Moodley told the court Byleveld stood on his chair and lifted his handcuffed arms up from behind.

"The pain was too much for me and I cried."

Byleveld then told Moodley "I must say I did it alone".

"They asked questions; Byleveld would suggest an answer and I would say yes," Moodley said.

Evidence destroyed

The poor English in the transcript was evidence of this, he said.

Moodley - who chose to represent himself in court - said the confession should have been made before a magistrate.

"[But] they knew I would tell the magistrate what was happening."

Moodley claimed that Byleveld had "abused his power" by changing dates and destroying evidence.

He said Byleveld had caused Rob Matthews - Leigh's father - to change his witness statement.

Byleveld has since been replaced as investigating officer after his retirement from the police.

In an SMS Matthews was forced to send her parents, Moodley said she referred to her captors in the plural "they", proving he had not acted alone.

"But [the SMS] was lost because it suits Byleveld's purpose," said Moodley.

He argued at length that it was impossible that he could have moved Matthews from her car to his in the busy parking lot of Bond University without anyone seeing him.

‘I was set up’

"So much evidence points to the fact that I was set up."

Moodley said he wanted a retrial to tell "this version of the truth, which I maintain to be the truth".

Previously, he did not mention the three drug dealers in court as he feared they would harm his family.

At the start of his application, he said: "Donovan Moodley has become persona nongrata, untouchable. Even people close to me refused to give testimony and don't want to be associated with the case."

He was found guilty in 2005 when he pleaded guilty to murder, kidnapping, and extortion, and was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder, 15 years for kidnapping, and 10 years for extortion.

Moodley - who appeared in court in leg irons - retired to the holding cells before the court proceedings began because he objected to the media's cameras in court.

Eventually, he acquiesced to their presence, but referred frequently to his belief that information leaked to the media had vilified him.

Application without precedent

Moodley expressed surprise that Judge Joop Labusagne - who presided at his trial - would hear the matter.

"I do not object to you being judge, the look on your face is always very disarming," he said.

Dressed in an over-sized suit and sporting a ponytail, Moodley appeared confident as he explained why he had chosen to represent himself.

He recounted his estrangement from his aunt, who had promised to pay a deposit for legal fees, but did not.

This was his explanation why it had taken him so long to apply for a retrial.

Labuschagne asked Moodley to expedite his argument, then called a brief adjournment.

Prosecutor Zaais van Zyl said the application was without precedent in South African law.

While Moodley viewed the matter as an application for retrial, the most favourable outcome for him would be to ask for leave to appeal against his conviction, Van Zyl said.


Read more on:    donovan moodley  |  piet byleveld  |  leigh matthews  |  johannesburg  |  leigh matthews case

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