Intimidation claims emerge in 2009 Durban nightclub murder trial

2018-01-31 22:17
Magistrate's court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Magistrate's court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Durban – A key witness in the murder trial of Travis Nel, accused of assaulting and killing an Irish citizen in a Durban nightclub in 2009, has claimed that he is a victim of intimidation.

Nel, who is accused of punching John King in the face at Eighties Nightclub after a rugby test match between the Springboks and All Blacks in August that year, has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

So far only one eyewitness, Hermanus Swart, has testified in the ongoing trial before Durban Regional Court Magistrate Sharon Marks.

Swart claims he saw Nel on that night both at the One Stop suite at the Kings Park Stadium and later at the club.

He alleges he saw Nel punch King in the face. King fell onto the arm of a couch and then onto the floor.

While under cross-examination on Tuesday, Swart refused to return to the courtroom after the tea adjournment, saying he was experiencing extreme anxiety.

CCTV footage not with police

When he returned on Wednesday morning, he explained that he had been intimidated by members of a gang, who he claimed were friends with Nel.

He stuck to his version that he had witnessed the assault that night.

Nel's attorney, Carl van der Merwe, said his client denied assaulting anyone.

"That is what he says. That is not what I saw," Swart responded.

It emerged during questions from Marks that at the time of the incident there was CCTV footage of the altercation. But this appears not to be in the hands of the police.

Former police officer Brian Pholia testified that he had conducted an ID parade with another eyewitness (who has not yet testified).

Because Nel was overseas, living in London, it had been conducted as a "photo parade" in November 2010, more than a year after the incident.

'He sticks out like a sore thumb'

Pholia said nine photographs – as supplied by investigating officer Colonel Anton Booysen – had been used.

"It took the witness 45 seconds to point out photograph number nine (Nel)."

Under cross-examination, Pholia conceded that it was improper for Booysen to have provided the photographs.

He also conceded that, given the extensive media coverage and publicity on social media about the crime, that it was "unfair" to hold an ID parade a year later.

"If he knew who the suspect was, it would be easy to point him out," Van der Merwe suggested.

The magistrate said that while photographs one to eight were of "expressionless white males", number nine was the only one to have a beard and seemed to be grinning.

"He sticks out like a sore thumb," she said to Pholia.

"Correct," was his response.

The trial continues.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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