Police may have coached witnesses in coffin case, court hears

Victor Mlotshwa. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)
Victor Mlotshwa. (Deaan Vivier, Gallo Images, Beeld)

Middelburg - Police might have coached witnesses on what to say in the coffin assault case, the High Court sitting in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court heard on Monday.

"I am not accusing the police. But there is a possibility that police told witnesses what to say," advocate Wayne Gibbs representing one of the accused Willem Oosthuizen told the court.

Gibbs was cross-examining coffin assault victim Victor Mlotshwa's mother, Lonia, during the sixth day of the trial.

Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson are facing charges of kidnapping, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, attempted murder and possession of an illegal firearm.

They were released on R1 000 each in July after they reapplied for bail.

Gibbs said in her initial statement to the police, Lonia said her son's face was bruised, his right eye was bruised and closed - he also had bruises on his right shoulder.

However, during her testimony on Monday, Lonia said her son's eye was red, he also had a red swollen mark on his chest.
There were scratches on both his legs below the knee and his clothes were dirty, Lonia told the packed court gallery.

"I asked you whether he bled from the nose, you said no," Gibbs said.

Gibbs also said Mlotshwa's mother had said in her statement that her son had open wounds on his chest.  

"I didn't say open wounds, I said he was swollen and reddish."

But Gibbs said Lonia's statement was different from her testimony in court.

The 57-year-old woman was also accused of avoiding some questions because she wanted to "protect" Mlotshwa.

Advocate Org Basson for Theo Jackson said during his testimony, Mlotshwa said that he was severely beaten on six instances - with open hands and fists.

He also testified that he was kicked with boots, adding that he was beaten with a knobkerrie.

"He said he was beaten at the back to such an extent that he suffered open wounds," Basson said.

"I didn't undress him," Lonia replied.

But Basson said, "I am going to argue that you were extremely evasive in your answers. This is because you don't want to compromise Victor's testimony."

Earlier on Monday, Lonia broke down after prosecutor Robert Molokoane asked her how she felt the first time she saw the video of her son being forced into a coffin.

She said she felt "angry, unsettled and couldn't speak".

"I asked myself had the Lord not helped him to get out of the coffin - I wonder what could have happened to him."

The matter continues on Tuesday.

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