Charges withdrawn, docket missing in poaching case that led to Hout Bay unrest

2018-09-20 16:37
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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WATCH: Hout Bay residents clash with police during 'crime prevention' operation

2018-08-30 16:26

Police came out in full force to conduct a crime prevention operation in Hangberg, Hout Bay, on Thursday. In response, residents started protesting, flares were fired and tyres were burned in Atlantic Skipper Road and Karbonkel Road, police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said. Watch.WATCH

Poaching charges against two fishermen, who were on the same boat as missing Hout Bay father Durick van Blerk, were unexpectedly withdrawn in the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Thursday because the docket could not be found.

"How is it possible that the docket could be lost?" asked Van Blerk's uncle Gregg Louw, as the accused and Van Blerk's parents made their way out of court, seemingly dumbfounded by the turn of events.

Prosecutor Craig Esterhuyse traced his steps as he went to various officials in the building in his search for the docket, after realising it was not available for the men's court appearance.

"It is unfortunate that I don't have the docket today, your worship, to tell us how [far] the investigation is," Estherhuyse told the court.

The two were charged with the illegal possession of 58 crayfish tails and seven whole crayfish in an anti-poaching operation in Hout Bay in August.

Van Blerk had been with them when he allegedly fell overboard.

The Independent Investigative Directorate (IPID) was investigating whether authorities shot him during the operation and he fell into the sea.

A search for him was launched but he has not yet been found.

His parents, Edward and Christine, were among those who attended court in the hope of hearing more details about what had happened to their 26-year-old son.

IPID previously told News24 that clarity on whether he had been shot and what happened during the operation hinged on locating Van Blerk.

Estherhuyse said that during his mission to find the docket on Thursday, he was told that the matter had been escalated to a provincial level and was no longer at the level of Hout Bay police. This was due to the protests that flared up following the anti-poaching operation.

He could not find out who the investigating officer was and was told a colonel on the fourth floor of the court building might be able to assist.

"So I went to the colonel," said Estherhuyse. "But to no avail. I couldn't have any success in finding out where this docket is."

He was told that IPID was also investigating the matter because of the shooting allegation.

"So I'm not sure even if IPID has taken the docket."

GroundUp reported earlier that IPID opened attempted murder cases against two police officials in connection with the operation on Saturday, August 11, after the two fishermen with Van Blerk laid a complaint.

The men's lawyer, whose name was not immediately available, said the State should "get its house in order" and requested that the crayfish-related charges be withdrawn. 

The charges can be reinstated.

The men declined to be interviewed.

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