Lab clerk up for stealing rhino horns
Johannesburg - A clerk from the police's forensic laboratory has appeared in the Pretoria District Court in connection with the theft of several rhino horns from a laboratory safe, according to a report on Thursday.
Azarial Shola Matjila, 34, who appeared in court on Wednesday, has denied any wrongdoing.
The horns were originally confiscated from suspected rhino poachers in June 2009, were handed in at the Villieria police station and were later sent to the police laboratory in Pretoria.
When the horns were examined in August 2009, they were found to have been replaced by plaster of paris fakes, Beeld newspaper reported.
During court proceedings, it emerged that the Villieria police station called Warrant Officer Hermanus Joubert, of the Polokwane organised crime unit, on June 2, to collect the rhino horns.
"The Villieria police told us that the horns were fresh, and suggested that we might be able to link the evidence to a crime, if we received reports of any poaching incidents," Joubert told the court.
As it was after hours, Joubert locked the horns into a cupboard in his office, and signed them into the evidence safe the next day, backdating the register to June 2 2009.