Drug case witnesses ‘at risk’

2008-10-14 00:00

The officer investigating a case of kidnapping and unlawful possession of firearms against Sherwin Naidoo (30) — the now suspended bodyguard of Msunduzi’s deputy mayor — and Collin Gous (26) said yesterday he fears for the safety of witnesses if the two get bail.

Responding to defence suggestions that witnesses could be admitted to a witness protection programme, Inspector Robin Mays said it is “not really viable” as five or six witnesses would need protection.

He said that in his opinion it is likely the accused would intimidate witnesses or tamper with evidence if released, as they have already threatened the complainant.

Mays told magistrate Judy Gurie the believes the evidence in the police docket at this stage is “so strong” that the accused would be convicted if the case went to trial immediately.

He said his investigation is complete, but for “one statement”.

Naidoo and Gous are charged with kidnapping Carlos Leslie Ramon Thurston in Chief Albert Luthuli Street on October 5.

Gous is also charged with unlawful possession of a 9 mm handgun, which according to Mays is the property of the city council.

Mays agreed that when Gous was found in possession of the gun, it did not have a magazine in it.

Naidoo is charged with unlawful possession of an LMS rifle — said to be similar to an R5 rifle.

Mays said the evidence of the state’s witnesses is that the case is “drug-related”.

The victim’s version is that he was to sell drugs on behalf of the two accused, that money was owed arising from drug sales and that when it was not paid he was kidnapped and money extorted to secure his release.

Mays said the accused allegedly threatened to kill the victim, “threatened to shoot his knee-caps”, pointed firearms at him and beat him.

Mays said Thurston was not seriously hurt, but was allegedly hit on the head with a firearm.

Advocate Seema Takchund, for Gous, said he maintains the incident was not drug-related and that the complainant owed him money “under innocuous circumstances”.

Attorney Nagesh Maharaj, for Naidoo, said his client also denies involvement in drug dealing, claiming it was just about a debt to Gous.

Mays testified that a state witness has claimed that someone apparently close to Gous took a photograph of him or her with a cellphone from a Mercedes Benz with an ND registration on the night of the incident.

He said the witnesses were part of a group who were with the complainant when he was “taken” by Gous and Naidoo.

Mays said Gous is currently on bail in a pending case under the drug trafficking act.

Naidoo has no previous convictions or pending cases, but was arrested on three previous occasions, when charges were withdrawn. In two of these matters it was alleged that he was guilty of assault.

The bail application is proceeding.

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