Colonel irked by probe

2016-01-28 10:48


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Pietermaritzburg - A police colonel testified that it “broke his heart” to investigate matters like the case where advocate Penny Hunt was accused of “bugging” the advocates’ chambers, when there were “murderers and robbers out there” to catch.

Colonel Johan Meeding gave evidence yesterday before Judge Albert Kruger and Judge Connie Mocume in the civil trial in which the Society of Advocates of KZN has applied to have Hunt struck off the roll of advocates.

Meeding was responding to a question by Jean Marais, SC for the society, who asked him if the Hawks were usually involved in solving more high-profile crimes like murders and robberies.

“I made my position clear to both parties in this matter that I got involved because I was instructed by my commander, Colonel [Hennie] Laatz … It breaks my heart to be involved in matters like these when there are murderers and robbers out there,” said Meeding.

A state advocate from the office of KZN director of public prosecutions Attie Truter formally declined to press criminal charges against Hunt on December 5, 2014, the court was told.

Meeding testified he became involved in the criminal investigation in March 2011 when he interviewed Hunt’s then secretary Alison Shrives (now Bradbury).

Shrives was “clearly upset” when talking to him.

“She reported to me that she was planning to resign from the employment of advocate Penny Hunt,” added Meeding.

He said Shrives alleged that rooms at the advocates’ chambers were being “bugged”.

“She alleged a certain Mr Impey and his son, who ran electronic investigations, had visited the rooms of advocate Penny Hunt.

“She said that she and the Hunts used to be friends. Her private motor vehicle was financed by Penny Hunt and one of them had represented her in her divorce case.”

Meeding said Shrives told him Impey’s son had “got into the roof” of the advocates’ chambers above Hunt’s offices and the adjacent office of Esme van der Watt (the Bar Administrator).

She alleged Impey had “walked around the foyer with a scanning device” while his son “kept on asking her for the extension number of Mrs van der Watt’s phone and asked her to ring Mrs van der Watt’s phone”.

She later allegedly noticed a file on Hunt’s computer called “Audacity”, and when she opened it she saw “frequencies” appearing and “heard voices”.

“She was of the opinion that Van der Watt’s office was being bugged,” said Meeding.

He said Shrives did not want to give an affidavit at the time because of her relationship with the Hunts, and he did not pressure her.

Two days later, on the night of Sunday, March 13, 2011, Laatz called Meeding to his office.

There he found Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Ford (a member of the Crime Intelligence Technical Support Unit) together with Laatz. They were in possession of “some electronic devices” which had been recovered from the roof of the advocates’ chambers.

Meeding said he obtained an urgent search warrant for Penny Hunt’s offices the next morning. By this time it was “common knowledge” that certain devices were found in the roof and it was feared that evidence could go missing.

He said during the subsequent search he had specifically looked for a “receiver” on Hunt’s desktop (without which the bugging device could not function), but none was ever found.

In his evidence earlier, Impey insisted that he had installed a receiver.

Meeding said police had “no knowledge” about a tracking device at that stage. This only came to light when Impey later told them that he had installed a tracker on advocate Mergen Chetty’s vehicle, which was then recovered.

Under cross examination by Peter Hodes, SC for Hunt, Meeding admitted having spoken to advocate Gerhard Roberts, SC at times in connection with the bugging incident.

He also agreed that Roberts and Adrian Rall, SC (then chairperson of the Pietermaritzburg bar and the complainant in the bugging case), had called “from time to time” to check on the progress of the investigation.

He also confirmed that they were “upset” when the prosecutions director decided not to prosecute her.

The case is continuing.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  saps

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