Culpable homicide for woman who ran over cop and drove off with him on the roof of her car

2018-04-05 19:41


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A woman who crashed at high speed into an off-duty Durban metro police officer and then drove about 1.5km with him on the roof of her car has been found guilty of culpable homicide and defeating the ends of justice.

Phumlani Mbatha was crossing Berea Road in Durban on April 14, 2012, when he was struck by a blue Polo, bearing a learner driver sign.

His friends, who were at the scene, spent hours trying to find him, going to hospitals and police stations. He was found alive in Silverton Road, near Musgrave Centre, but died soon after in hospital.

Nolwazi Nzimande pleaded not guilty before Durban Regional Court Magistrate Stanley Hlophe to charges of murder, defeating the ends of justice and failing to perform the duties of a driver after an accident.

Her co-accused, friend and American national John Solomon, also pleaded not guilty to defeating the ends of justice.

Nzimande admitted that she had been driving the vehicle on that day and in that area, but claimed she had been a victim of an attempted hijacking and had nothing to do with Mbatha's death.

'I couldn't believe what I saw'

A key witness in the trial was Jonathan Aschmann, who said while driving that evening he noticed a blue Polo "with something on its roof".

He got closer and followed the car and saw that a woman was driving the car and was speaking on her cellphone.

"I was shocked and couldn't believe what I saw," he said.

"The windscreen was caved in. There was a man on the roof, somehow stuck in the windscreen. He was hanging over the car on the left-hand side."

He said he did not know what to do and had only reported the matter to the police when he saw a Facebook post about the incident.

According to evidence, Nzimande had gone to Solomon's house that night for a pre-arranged dinner.

Car impounded

Solomon said when she arrived she was in a state and said someone had thrown something at her car.

He did not inspect the car. Instead he had gone back to Berea Road and inquired whether there had been any reports of a hijacking or an accident.

He then telephoned a friend who organised a tow truck to take the car to a panel beater the next morning.

En route to the panel beater, the tow truck driver was apprehended by the police who escorted him there and then impounded the car.

Nzimande went to the police station later that day and said the car was hers and she was arrested.

In summarising the evidence, the magistrate said Nzimande had not been able to explain "the simplest of things" relating to the alleged attempted hijacking.

Evidence not 'reasonably possibly true'

"While she said it was always her intention to report the matter to the police, she said she did not know where the nearest station was and did not know the number. It is strange she did not know 10111. And when the vehicle was seized by police the next day at lunchtime, she had still not reported the incident," he said.

And, he said, when she did arrive at the police station, she never told the police about the attempted hijacking.

Regarding Solomon, he said it was strange that he had not viewed the damage that night but had arranged for a panel beater so late, before hearing the whole story and before he even knew if it was insured.

"As a whole, their evidence was fraught with inconsistencies, contradictions and cannot be said to be reasonably possibly true."

He said, however, that Nzimande could not be convicted of murder, and found her guilty of the lesser charge of culpable homicide.

She was also found guilty of obstructing the course of justice as was Solomon.

Sentencing will take place next month.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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