State witness attacked on farm

2010-10-05 07:44

Bloemfontein - A usually calm Jack Russell probably saved the lives of a Wesselsbron farmer and his wife on Monday morning, when it started barking wildly in the garden, alerting them to a problem.

Carel Marais, 59, a farmer and businessman, says the incident on his farm was no ordinary robbery or farm attack.

He says the four armed men were there to kill him to prevent him from testifying in one of the most controversial corruption trials in the Free State to date.

One of the defendants in the case is the brother of a Free State MEC.

Paid to kill

"There is no doubt in my mind that the four men - who each had R1 000 on them when they were arrested - were paid to kill me."

The nine accused in the trial will appear in the Free State High Court sitting in Virginia on January 24. Apparently the accused had threatened earlier to have Marais murdered along with one of the chief investigating officers, Inspector Nico Smith.

Marais is the State's primary witness. The police have already obtained statements from the prison at Odendaalsrus about the plan to murder Marais.

Marais says when he and his wife, Ina, woke up on Monday morning, she told him there was a bird in the garden making a very strange sound.

They later realised this was the suspects' way of communicating with each other.

Shot fired

When Marais went outside, his Jack Russell was barking and jumping up and down near shrubs in the corner of their garden. As he approached he saw someone pointing a firearm at him through the plants.

Marais whipped out his own firearm and fired a shot. He ran around a concrete wall to find shelter, but instead ran into the other attackers.

His firearm jammed and he yelled for his wife to lock the house. He then ran back in through the back door and immediately called for help on the Marnet radio.

Neighbours were there within five minutes, and the four suspects were arrested by a group of farmers within half an hour, about 2km from the farmstead. Their firearms were missing.

Mmako Mophiring, spokesperson for the police unit against organised crime, the Hawks, said the four suspects are all from Gauteng. Their vehicle has been seized.

They have been charged with trespassing and pointing a firearm.