Man accused of murder following WhatsApp message row denied bail

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Leon Coetzee appears in the Pretoria North Magistrate's court on a charge of murder.
Leon Coetzee appears in the Pretoria North Magistrate's court on a charge of murder.
News24/Alex Mitchley
  • Leon Coetzee is accused of stabbing Thembinkosi Thabethe in Green Acres Estate in Montana.
  • Coetzee alleged that Thabethe was the aggressor - and that he acted in self-defence.
  • The State says Coetzee ran after Thabethe, who was then stabbed while lying helplessly on the ground. 

Leon Coetzee, the man accused of murdering Thembinkosi Thabethe, after a furore over a WhatsApp message, has been denied bail. 

Coetzee, who appeared in the Pretoria North Magistrate's Court on Friday, is accused of stabbing Thabethe three times outside of his house in Green Acres Estate in Montana on 26 April. 

Thabethe died in hospital on 1 May. 

Thabethe, who also lives in the estate, went to confront Coetzee's wife about a message addressed to her on the estate's WhatsApp group.

News24 previously reported that the message, sent by another person, was screengrabbed and sent to the estate group, which sparked outrage.

READ | Man accused of killing neighbour over WhatsApp row claims it was 'self-defence'

Thabethe was also mentioned in the message. 

The message in question, which was in Afrikaans, said Coetzee's wife should concern herself with those "pigs" and that TT is very corrupt. 

Thembinkosi Thabethe
Thembinkosi Thabethe, who died on 1 May after being stabbed in the estate he lived in.

During the bail application, Coetzee argued that he acted in self-defence, that Thabethe was the aggressor, and that he also attacked a neighbour. 

However, the State said it had evidence that Coetzee chased after Thabethe, stabbing him twice and then a third time as he was lying on the ground, defenceless. 

Judgment 

Handing down judgment on Friday, the magistrate, Thabo Ramahanelo, said the bail application fell under Schedule 6, which means the onus rests on the defence team to prove that exceptional circumstances exist, which permits the release of the accused on bail. 

Ramahanelo said the two WhatsApp groups in the estate were split along racial lines, and that the anger at being called "pigs" was justified. 

READ | EFF members force their way into Pretoria court ahead of trial over deadly WhatsApp clash

"It's clear there were racial tensions, which led to the events that unfolded on the night in question," Ramahanelo said. 

The court also found that the knife used was no ordinary kitchen knife, which one would keep in the kitchen or have around at the dinner table. 

He said the knife used was designed to cause serious injury. 

He dismissed the application and ordered that Coetzee be kept in custody. 

The matter was postponed to 20 July. 

Following the outcome, members of the EFF, who had earlier forced their way into the court, rejoiced at the verdict. They sang songs as Coetzee was taken back to the holding cells.

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