Plot thickens in judge’s murder trial

2011-11-12 19:25

Gaping holes in testimony, insinuation of police incompetence and lax security at an upmarket seaside complex.

These are some of the cracks that appeared in the murder trial of Acting High Court Judge Patrick Maqubela in the Western Cape High Court this week.

Maqubela’s wife Thandi is charged with his death, along with Vela Mabena. They are accused of killing him in June 2009.

Following startling revelations of Maqubela’s alleged infidelity and up to R20 million debt for houses and cars, defence lawyers poked several holes in the evidence of state witnesses Rashied Judaar, a handyman at the complex and security guard Mark Benjamin this week.

It was Benjamin who, with two of the Maqubela’s friends, discovered his body in his apartment at The President’s Suites in Bantry Bay on June 7, 2009.

Early this week Judaar and Benjamin placed Thandi and Mabena at the complex on the day the judge was allegedly killed.

Advocate Randall Titus, who is defending Mabena, accused Benjamin of providing an oral version of events to the court that differed from his statement to the police.

Titus drew Judge John Murphy’s attention to Benjamin’s police statement, that between 10.15am and 11am on June 5 an “unknown African male” arrived at the complex in a white 1980 model Toyota Corolla to visit Maqubela.

In court Benjamin identified this man as Mabena and said he had let him into the complex at about 10am after Maqubela had given permission over the intercom.

Benjamin said Mabena drove out of the complex’s main exit about 30 minutes later.

He said 20 minutes after Mabena left, he saw Thandi driving out of the complex in a black Audi,. She returned later that morning.

He said Thandi was not often at the apartment and Maqubela was “always alone”, but Benjamin’s testimony started coming apart in cross-examination.

Titus asked him how he recalled Mabena’s name as he could not remember the name in his statements, to which Benjamin replied the police had told him who it was.

When Benjamin was asked to point out the car Mabena had driven on June 5, he pointed out a cream BMW at the Sea Point police station.

Benjamin said he “made a mistake” thinking Mabena had arrived in a Toyota, and then admitted that police had told him the BMW was Mabena’s car.

Titus told Benjamin, who was visibly nervous, that he was “wrapping himself up in a web of lies”, reminding him that this was a “high-profile” case and that there was therefore “pressure on police to solve it” – insinuating that police were instructing him what to say.

“The version you want the court to believe is the version advocated by the police. What they are trying to do is fit a square peg in a round hole,” said Titus. There was also a suggestion that Benjamin’s third statement was “pre-prepared” by the police.

Murphy was also told that Mabena was identified by Benjamin in a “one-man identity parade” which Titus referred to as a “one-man identity charade”.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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