I'm no walking time bomb, cop says

Pietermaritzburg - A member of the Pietermaritzburg police's dog unit, Morné Croeser, 34, charged with murdering his wife in a premeditated, staged robbery last August, could be back on the beat on Wednesday after being granted bail of R5 000 on Tuesday.

At his bail hearing, Croeser denied he is a “walking time bomb” because of ongoing anger management issues.

He also denied that, if allowed to go free and resume his duties armed with a firearm, he would pose a danger to others, including his daughters, aged three and six, because he knows he could face life imprisonment if convicted.

“I will never, ever hurt my children,” he said. “My plan is to live a full life and to see my children.”

A seemingly composed Croeser admitted he has a temper, that he assaulted his wife Erika in January 2010 and that he has had “more than one” affair during their marriage.

He also admitted he was involved with his current girlfriend (identified only by her surname, Sinclair) at the time of his wife’s death, but he said he intends to plead not guilty to Erika’s murder.

Feared for her life

Croeser said he knew five days after the murder that police suspected him, and his friends in the police advised him long ago to get a lawyer.

“I told them … to let them get on with their investigation and I told them to just tell what they knew,” he told magistrate Rod Stewart.

Croeser claims he was stabbed in the stomach during the alleged murder, that he was hospitalised and underwent an operation for the injury.

He did not comment on the State’s allegation that he stabbed himself in a bid to evade justice.

He agreed during questioning that he “still has a lot of anger” arising from what has happened and is receiving counselling.

He admitted that Erika’s parents met him in April or May last year to discuss his temper and said they did not want him at their home.

He said he was not aware that Erika had sought a protection order against him because she was afraid for her life, as the State alleges she did.

Self-inflicted wounds

Investigating officer Swami Pillay of the organised crime unit said in an affidavit opposing bail that the State has a strong case against Croeser based on circumstantial evidence.

This includes evidence by medical and other experts proving that the wound to Croeser’s abdomen was “probably self-inflicted” and that wounds to his hands were consistent with him holding the knife while stabbing his wife.

Pillay said there is evidence that Croeser staged two break-ins at the couple’s home in the week prior to the murder in an attempt to mislead people in the Msinsi reserve.

Pillay expressed concern that, if given bail, Croeser could intimidate or influence witnesses, who include his friends in the police, his girlfriend, his father and his in-laws.

The case has been postponed to February 15.

Croeser’s advocate Dawid Joubert disputed the state’s contention that the murder was premeditated. Even if Croeser did kill Erika, it was more likely to have been in the course of a “savage rage attack” as she had 14 stab wounds.

Serious charges

It was unclear on Tuesday whether Croeser will be able to return to police duties and whether he will be allowed to carry a firearm.

Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge said each case is considered on its merits. It would take time to ascertain the facts relating to Croeser.

Police officers facing serious charges such as murder may be suspended with or without pay, but that decision can only be taken by the provincial police commissioner after procedures laid down by the Labour Relations Act have been followed, Mdunge said.
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