Croeser weeps on getting bail

2012-11-20 00:00

PALE, drawn former dog unit Constable Morné Croeser broke down in tears when granted bail of R15 000 yesterday by Judge Esther Steyn in the high court in Pietermaritzburg. Steyn had jailed him for 23 years for the murder of his wife Erika in January.

Croeser was refused leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence after that trial, but he petitioned the Supreme Court of Appeal, which granted him leave to appeal to a full bench of the local high court. The court was told yesterday that Croeser has been offered a job by a construction company and that he will stay with his father and two children.

Croeser’s counsel, advocate Murray Pitman, said yesterday that Croeser was convicted of his wife’s murder on circumstantial evidence and that different people drew differing inferences from the same circumstances.

While Erika Croeser’s murder had been brutal, Pitman said the court should judge the bail application on the premise that he had reasonable prospects of success.

Croeser also faces charges of murder, assault and defeating the ends of justice in the Mtubatuba high court next year along with Defence Force Rifleman Paul Jeke. The incident occurred while they were patrolling the border to keep out illegal immigrants during the 2010 Soccer World Cup in June.

While they were operating a roadblock, a driver of an approaching vehicle did a U-turn to avoid the roadblock. Croeser and Jeke gave chase, but the driver sped away, took evasive action and ignored flickered light signals to stop.

Croeser fired into the tar road and the fleeing driver stopped. Croeser said a fugitive who alighted had an object in his hand that resembled a firearm and Jeke shot him in self defence. Croeser is alleged to have said he should fire.

For this case, Croeser was released on bail of R10 000 by an Ingwavuma magistrate.

State counsel Irene Neyt said these charges increased the risk of Croeser absconding, but Pitman said that Croeser had always appeared in court when required while on bail. He also had undertaken not to interfere with witnesses or exhibits.

Steyn said it was relevant that Croeser had testified for the state previously. She said his appeal would probably not be heard until 2014 or later by which time he would have been incarcerated for a long time. If the full bench found in his favour, it would have been a travesty of justice if he had languished in jail awaiting the appeal.

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