Alleged 'CCTV hijacker' to remain behind bars

2019-01-10 17:09
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A 28-year-old tavern owner charged with the hijacking and abduction of a Durban businesswoman in December has been denied bail after evidence that he used her bank card to draw money on the same day was presented in court.

Asibonge Mdlalose was arrested two days after Marta Rubilar was snatched by a gang of four men outside her office in Powell Road, Morningside. They bundled her into her car and drove off.

CCTV camera footage of the incident was immediately released on social media and Rubilar, 54, was found unharmed near Newlands West.

While her car was also recovered later that day, her handbag containing her purse and two mobile phones, have yet to be found.

Mdlalose has been charged with aggravated robbery and hijacking.

While Rubilar did not point out Mdlalose during an identification parade, prosecutor Calvin Govender argued during a bail application before Magistrate Vanitha Armu on Thursday that he had been seen on CCTV footage withdrawing money using Rubilar's bank card on the same day as the incident, December 7, 2018.

Suspect 'has fully cooperated'

Coupled with this, the arresting officer – who had seen the CCTV footage from the scene – had recognised Mdlalose.

Mdlalose's attorney, Nhlanhla Mnculwane, argued that the State had a very weak case.

"My client will be exonerated. It is not fair for him to stay in custody pending a trial.

"He has fully cooperated with the investigating officer. He has told him who gave him the card and even went further and attempted to help trace the man."

The investigating officer, Warrant Officer Brett Cotton, confirmed this.

In his evidence during the hearing, he said he had no grounds to oppose bail.

"He has never told me a lie," Cotton said of the accused.

Acquaintance gave him the card, accused claims

Asked about the CCTV footage from the scene, he said he had not seen it himself. The arresting officer, however, had and had recognised Mdlalose and "knew where he stayed", according to the arresting officer's statement.

Cotton said Mdlalose had told him that an acquaintance, Bonginkosi Mbatha, had given him the bank card and asked him to withdraw money.

Two amounts were withdrawn: R1 400 and R350 by two different men, but he was waiting on bank records to ascertain which amount had been withdrawn by Mdlalose and what time that had occurred.

"With information from Mdlalose and Crime Intelligence, we went to several houses to find Mbatha but he was not there," Cotton said.

Asked by the prosecutor if he had questioned Mdlalose about the name on the bank card, he said: "I didn't ask him."

Govender, in his argument, said it couldn't "just be a coincidence" that the same person identified by the arresting officer had then been in possession of Rubilar's bank card.

"I would say the case against him is overwhelming."

Bail not 'in the interests of justice'

Magistrate Armu said Mdlalose had to show "exceptional circumstances" in order to be released on bail and "the fact that the investigating officer does not object does not mean it is in the interests of justice".

"There is a prima facie case against him. Hijacking has reached endemic proportions. One can only imagine the terrifying ordeal the complainant went through. She was extremely fortunate that she was not harmed that day.

"If he is released on bail it will undermine the proper functioning of the criminal justice system and the bail system. The interests of justice far outweigh those of the applicant (Mdlalose)," she said, refusing bail.

He will appear in court again next month.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime
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