Guard acquitted of child's murder

2012-07-19 19:21

Pretoria - A security guard accused of murdering a 9-year-old boy in a drive-by shooting near Bronkhorstspruit was acquitted on Thursday by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Judge Ferdi Preller ruled that the State had not proved the guilt of Deon van der Walt and his brother Johan on a charge of murdering Gift Mokoena in June 2007.

Mokoena died shortly after being shot in the chest when Johan opened fire on the car in which he and his family were travelling back to their home in Tembisa after visiting his grandmother.

Preller acquitted Deon van der Walt and found Johan guilty of culpable homicide for negligently causing the boy's death. He will appear again on 10 September.

The brothers were acquitted of the attempted murder of six of the boy's relatives and of pedestrian Tsepho Molefi, in late night drive-by shootings on the Cullinan road near Bronkhorstspruit.

They were also found not guilty on charges relating to the illegal possession and theft of the Transnet firearm used in the shootings.

Both men had to be retried after the original trial judge, Belinda Molamu, died last August.

Preller accepted Johan's evidence that he had fired warning shots at the Mokoena's car because he believed he and his brother were about to be hijacked and that he had not meant to hit anyone.

He said Mokoena's father Jan and his uncle had given conflicting versions of where they were when the shots were fired, and only one shot had hit the car.

Preller said this showed that there had not been an intent to murder everyone inside.

Deon had accompanied his brother that night on a patrol of the railway lines to stop cable theft.

Preller said he accepted that Johan had been agitated and would have been more inclined to overreact as he worked as a security guard for a company transporting cash and had shortly before seen a friend die in a cash heist.

"The State has not proved that Deon had anything to do with the shooting in which Gift died," Preller said.

He said there was no proof that Johan purposely shot at the car, but ruled that he had been negligent when he fired the shot.

Regarding the charges involving Molefi, he testified that he and a friend were walking home after visiting a pub when a bakkie stopped in front of them and the passenger started firing shots, hitting both of them.

Two bullet shells were later picked up at the scene, but the State did not present any evidence linking the shells to any of the firearms the brothers had in their possession that night.

Deon admitted firing several shots at a rabbit that night, but said he had not seen anyone in the area.

Preller said he could not exclude the possibility that Molefi had been shot by someone else with another calibre firearm.