Cape judge warns against 'Oscar trial'

2014-03-17 22:21
John Hlophe (Picture: Sapa)

John Hlophe (Picture: Sapa)

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Johannesburg – Judge President John Hlophe reprimanded a prosecutor in the murder trial of gay night club owner Bruno Bronn, for asking too long a question, saying he did not want the case to turn into an “Oscar Pistorius trial”.

The first of three men on trial for the murder of Bronn, was accused on Monday of fabricating events.

Frederick Willem John Coetzer was queried by Arno Nell, for accused number two Fareez Allie, about his version of events on 6 February 2012 when Bronn was strangled.

"I put it to you that you are fabricating this story," Nell said.

Coetzer, Allie and Achmat Toffa have pleaded not guilty before Judge President John Hlophe and assessor Jaco van Reenen, a retired chief magistrate, to charges of premeditated murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Bronn owned the night club, The Bronx, in the Cape Town, and was strangled in his Sea Point home.

Coetzer, a bouncer at The Bronx, was questioned at length about his relationship with Bronn.

He said he had enjoyed a good working relationship with Bronn, but denied that the relationship was sexual.

Coetzer sniggered at suggestions that he was homosexual or bisexual.

He added: "Bruno was HIV-positive, but always had respect for me and never tried anything with me."

Coetzer was warned several times by the judge not to be argumentative.

The judge explained that Nell's function was to cross-examine Coetzer, and Coetzer's role was simply to answer the questions.

The judge asked Coetzer pointedly: "Did you have a sexual relationship with the deceased or not?"

Coetzer said he had not.

Nell said Bronn had told four people about his sexual relationship with Coetzer, and asked why he would have said so if it were not true.

Coetzer replied: "I do not know."

Nell said that, according to Allie, Coetzer had boasted about having a relationship with "someone in an affluent neighbourhood".

Coetzer said he had not told anyone of any sexual relationship with Bronn.

He said the closest, physically, that he had ever gotten to Bronn was shaking his hand two or three times in the seven years that he had known him.

"It could be that Bruno told others that he had a sexual relationship with me, but if he did it was not true. I never slept with him," he said.

Claims of harassment

Nell said Bronn had complained that Coetzer repeatedly harassed him, and had said he was terrified of Coetzer.

Coetzer said Bronn was in fact terrified, but not of Coetzer.

He added: "The first time that I ever heard that he was terrified of me, was here in court.

"If Bruno had a problem with me, he would have discussed it with me himself."

Questioned about the happenings on the night in question, Coetzer said he visited Bronn to discuss problems concerning traveller's cheques.

He was dropped near Bronn's home by his co-accused, and inside the house Bronn had "rolled himself a joint" as they discussed the cheques.

He said Bronn got a fright when Allie suddenly appeared and gave Coetzer a firearm, with the words, "keep him [Bronn] here, and keep him quiet".

Coetzer said Bronn tried to struggle past him, and Coetzer grabbed Bronn around the neck to restrain him.

He said he managed to "disarm" the firearm, and in the struggle they both fell to the floor.

At one stage, Nell asked several questions as one, prompting the judge to intervene.

The judge asked Nell to break his long question into several smaller ones, and added: "I don't want this case to be converted into an Oscar Pistorius trial."

The trial continues.

Read more on:    john hlophe  |  bruno bronn  |  cape town  |  crime

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