Man pleads not guilty to 2009 Durban nightclub murder

Magistrate's Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)
Magistrate's Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Durban – Almost nine years after an Irish citizen was murdered in a Durban nightclub, the trial of the man accused of the crime began on Monday.

Travis Nel, who lives in London, pleaded not guilty before Durban Regional Court Magistrate Sharon Marks to murdering John King at 80's Nightclub, next to Kings Park Rugby Stadium.

He denied ever assaulting him.

The incident – which occurred inside the club – took place in the early hours of August 2, 2009, after a tri-nations test match between the Springboks and the All Blacks. 

King, 40, was working in South Africa on a hydroelectric dam in Ladysmith at the time.

While it was initially thought he had died from natural causes, a post-mortem report indicated that he had been beaten to death.

Charge provisionally withdrawn

Nel, who is South African, was already living in the UK at the time and returned there shortly after the incident.

He came back to South Africa in March 2010 and was arrested and charged.

He was granted bail under strict conditions but these were later relaxed and after some time the charge was provisionally withdrawn.

Police then established that Nel had returned to South Africa, undetected, in January 2016 and he was "flagged" on the movement control system.

On Christmas Eve that year, the system reported that he was on a flight from Frankfurt, Germany, headed for Johannesburg.

When he arrived at OR Tambo airport he was detained, taken to Durban and released on bail again.

'Very busy night'

The trial was supposed to start last week, but his attorney, Carl van der Merwe, presented documents to the court showing that Nel, who was in the UK at the time, had applied for his passport to be renewed but it had been caught up in a backlog at the Department of Home Affairs.

The first witness on Monday was then club manager Graeme Bailey.

He explained that the club had, subsequent to the crime, been sold (and became Tiger Tiger) and that the layout was now different.

He said because of the rugby test match it had been "very busy that night".

He was aware that someone had died but bouncers had handled it.

He also said that he knew Nel and had not seen him there that night.

The trial continues on Tuesday when an eyewitness will give evidence.


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