Hillary Gardee murder: Accused claims police 'beat me for a long time, kicked me repeatedly'

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Relatives of the slain Hillary Gardee seated next to her picture in court.
Relatives of the slain Hillary Gardee seated next to her picture in court.
Ntwaagae Seleka
  • Albert Gama claimed he was severely assaulted by the police. 
  • Gama said he was beaten because he didn't know the whereabouts of the firearms.
  • Gama and two others are accused of killing Hillary Gardee.

An accused in the Hillary Gardee murder case echoed his co-accused by claiming he was severely tortured by the police.

Albert Gama, 52, told the Nelspruit Magistrate's Court on Tuesday he was electrocuted, kicked, and suffocated several times with a plastic bag.

"The police tortured me because I told them I didn't know [where] the firearms they wanted were," Gama claimed.

He said the police found him at his workplace days after Hillary's death.

Gama was employed as a security guard by his co-accused, Philemon Lukhele. 

He said: 

Lukhele owned three guesthouses accommodating tertiary students. I was employed at one of the properties. The police found me at one of the residences and took me to the Nelspruit police station.

"On my arrival at the (police station) parking lot, I saw Lukhele and his brother, Sikhumbuzo, who were both handcuffed. Sikhumbuzo was bleeding above his left eye, and the police later took him to the hospital.

"Together with Lukhele's manager, Wandile Mngomezulu, we were taken to an office, while Lukhele was taken to another office. We heard Lukhele screaming as the police were assaulting him."

Gama said the police dragged Lukhele outside and called him to the office in which Lukhele was assaulted.

READ | Hillary Gardee murder case: Court dismisses application to have charge sheet amended

"A police officer, identified as Mkhaliphi, showed him a picture of a girl, asking if he knew that girl. I was also asked where the firearms were because Lukhele had told them that he had given me guns.

"They threatened to force me to show them where I kept the firearms. They covered my head with a plastic bag to suffocate me and assaulted me for a long time.

"They beat me for a long time. They kicked me repeatedly. They kept on removing and covering my head repeatedly with a plastic bag. They then electrocuted my legs," said Gama.

He said the police took him to one of Lukhele's properties, where he claimed the assault continued.

"They didn't find any weapons. As I tried climbing the stairs, an officer dragged me from behind with my belt. I fell and hit the floor with my forehead, and bled.

"Students came in numbers from their rooms after hearing the police assaulting me. They asked students, who confirmed knowing me as a security guard working for their landlord. They then ceased assaulting me. We drove back to the police station, where I bled for the entire night," said Gama.

READ | Hillary Gardee murder: 'Alleged killer didn't disclose all pending cases, convictions'

He said his body was still in pain, despite having been assaulted in May.

During his bail application, the other co-accused, Sipho Mkhatshwa, claimed that he, too, was severely assaulted by the police, who forced him to confess that he had killed Hillary.

Mkhatshwa has since been denied bail.

Lukhele and Gama brought bail applications before the magistrate, Patrick Morris.

The three men are accused of kidnapping, raping, and killing Hillary, who was last seen alive on 29 April. Her body was found a week later on a timber plantation outside Nelspruit.

Gama and Lukhele are expected back in court on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the police have arrested another man linked to the murder.

The man is expected to make his first appearance in court on Wednesday. 

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