Ex-player ‘is disturbed’

2011-04-01 00:00

JOSEPH Ntshongwana, the 34-year-old former Blue Bulls rugby player accused of three axe murders, has a history of mental disturbance.

This emerged yesterday when he appeared amid tight security in court for the first time on charges of murder, attempted murder and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

He was arrested at his parents’ house in Yellowwood Park, Durban, on Tuesday in connection with a spate of axe attacks over the past two weeks. One of his victims was decapitated and his head dumped in a bin.

Following earlier media reports that the killer was seeking revenge for the rape of his daughter, who was allegedly infected with HIV in the process, it emerged yesterday that Ntshongwana does not have a daughter.

According to informed sources, rape is not mentioned in the statement by the complainant (who survived an attack) to police. In the victim’s sworn statement, he said the attacker said: “You gave my baby girl HIV”.

Police guarded all the doors in courtroom 10 at the Durban Magistrate’s Court and only the media were allowed to attend the hearing.

The tall, lean Ntshongwana, wearing a red T-shirt and black sweat pants, bowed his head and followed the proceedings with folded arms.

During his rugby career, he played for the Barbarians in 1996, for the Blue Bulls from 1998 and 2000 and for the South-western Districts Eagles in 2002.

Advocate J.P. Broster, for Ntshongwana, told magistrate Anita Govender he plans to apply for his client to be sent for psychological observation under article 77 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

A psychologist’s report about Ntshongwana’s medical history was handed to the investigating officer.

Dr Gérard Labuschagne, commander of the police investigative psychological unit, who has been involved in the case since last week, said article 77 is meant to determine if a person is fit to stand trial and able to contribute meaningfully to his defence.

If this is not the case, an accused can be declared a state psychiatric patient until his condition improves enough to stand trial.

Prosecutor Martin Mtambo indicated that he wants Ntshongwana examined by a district surgeon to determine if psychological assessment is necessary.

The headless body was found in Lamontville and the man’s head in a bin in the Jacobs industrial area. Two bodies of people who were hacked to death were found nearby.

Police raided Ntshongwana’s home and found a weapon and blood-stained clothes.

The case was postponed until April 7.

THE story has attracted international media attention, apparently fuelled by speculation that the player is a white person who was avenging the rape of his daughter by a black man.

In fact, the accused, Joseph Ntshongwana, is black, as were the victims, and there is no rape victim.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said yesterday the British Broadcasting Corporation and Agence France-Presse (AFP) were among those inquiring about the story, since it emerged that the arrested man was a former rugby player.

The story was also carried by the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mirror in Britain and the Australian, Herald Sun, New Zealand Herald, and Sydney Morning Herald.

A senior police officer close to the case said his office was phoned by international media convinced there was a racial angle to the case after hearing that the 34-year-old murder suspect was a rugby player.

“They concluded that since the suspect is a former Blue Bulls player, it is a white person seeking revenge for his daughter who has been raped by a black person,” said the senior officer.

Mdunge said: “Since [Wednesday] we have been receiving phone calls from the international media houses. They have been asking about the suspect’s age, issue of race, and wanted to confirm that he is a former rugby player … We told them that the man is not white and we also ruled out the issue of race.”

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