Judge acquits farm employee of murder after police coercion

2016-11-19 08:45
Police. (News24, file)

Police. (News24, file)

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Mbombela - The Nelspruit High Court has acquitted a farm employee accused of killing a man and burning his body inside his house, after a ruling implicating police of brutality.

Judge JJ Strydom said evidence had proved beyond reasonable doubt that Doctor Khoza, 38, a worker at Honeybird Farm, near Barberton in Mpumalanga, was assaulted and forced to make a confession for the killing of Sibusiso Daniel Mbandze, a worker at the same farm on March 26, 2015.

The accused was acquitted of the charges of murder and arson when he appeared in the Nelspruit High Court on Thursday.

"The accused, during his confession to a court magistrate in Barberton, told her that police assaulted him to make confession. In his evidence, he did not report to other police officers when he made his first statement because he did not trust them. The court rejects the two statements as inadmissible," said the judge.

'Why would he make up such a story'

Strydom said investigating officer Constable Mandla Mazibuko had denied that he and other police officers had assaulted the accused.

"The accused said he was taken to a dam at Shelongubo near Barberton, where he was shown a plastic bag and pepper spray. He was shocked until he took the police to his wife’s place and asked her to bring a knife, which he said was the murder weapon. Why would he make up such a story about the dam and other officers, if that never occurred?" Strydom asked.

The judge said, on evidence before court, the accused had intimidated the deceased and his daughter Winnie, after his arrest for assaulting Winnie in December 2014.

"After his arrest, he intimidated both Winnie and the deceased not to testify against him. Although evidence from witness Nonto Nkosi revealed she heard the accused when he intimidated Winnie and the deceased, the State failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

"The fact that he intimidated them was also not in dispute. But I find it strange that on the day the deceased was killed, Nkosi heard him calling the deceased’s name three times. She also found him at the scene, while the house was on fire."

"As a suspect, why would he place himself at the scene of the crime, and not escape?" asked the judge.

State failed to prove its case

The judge said, according to the court finding, the killing of the deceased was still a mystery.
 
He said, although strong evidence revealed the deceased’s cellphone was found in possession of the accused during his arrest, police could be blamed for being negligent. He said the court accepted that the cellphone found belonged to the deceased. It had his name, Daniel, written on it. 

"Evidence indicated the deceased made his last call on March 25 at 23:00, the day of his death. The accused must have obtained it after 23:00, after his death. This leaves a strong suspicion the accused might have executed his threats to stop the deceased from testifying against him in court," he said.

However, Strydom said the State has failed in its case to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had committed the offence.

"I also find it strange why the police did not charge him for the theft of the cellphone. The accused is acquitted on the two counts of murder and arson," said the judge.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  police brutality  |  crime

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