Peter trial: Defence questions how burnt witness could have fingered accused
The trial of Angy Peter and Isaac Mbadu continued last week after a two week recess. Peter and Mbadu are on trial, along with two others, Azola Dayimani and Christopher Dina, for the murder by ‘necklacing’ of Rowan du Preez in October 2012.
Du Preez was a known criminal in Mfuleni and had stolen Peter’s TV in August. Peter and Mbadu’s legal team argues that the charges are the result of a set-up by the police services, in retaliation for Peter’s work exposing police inefficiency and corruption in Mfuleni and Khayelitsa.
The entire week was taken up by the testimony and cross-examination of three police officers who claim to have heard his dying confession, which allegedly directly implicates Peters and Mbadu.
Last week began with King’s cross examination of Captain Von Sitters [aka Captain Kok - editor], who was then stationed at Mfuleni [aka Blue Downs - editor] police station, and then the testimony and cross-examination of Constable Raoul Bernardo. Bernardo was a student constable at the time of the incident, accompanying Von Sitters on patrol. They claim an unknown male, who later disappeared, alerted Bernardo and Von Sitters about the existence and location of the dying man.
When they arrived on the scene Du Preez was still alive. Bernardo claims he questioned Du Preez who gave two lengthy answers which included his name, address, the names of his killers and the events which had directly led to him being set on fire.
Officers from Kleinvlei police station then took over the crime scene from Von Sitters. Constable Wilhelm claims she questioned Rowan and received an almost identical reply.
All three police officers claim that Du Preez spoke clearly and they did not have difficulty understanding his words. Advocate for the defence, William King, has questioned how this could be so given the extent of his wounds, which included burning inside his mouth, throat and nasal cavity, as well as 150 degree burns which left the flesh in his genital area and feet charred.
The Defence has also questioned why, if Du Preez had given them Peter’s name and address, they did not proceed directly to her house, which is nearby the Mfuleni police station, to question her, or inform the family of Du Preez who had been looking for him urgently that night.
Peter and Mbadu both work for the Social Justice Coalition. Peter was the focal point for the community safety campaign that led up to the establishment of the Commission of Inquiry into Policing in Khayelitsa, and collected the majority of the testimony brought to the Office of the Premier when a coalition of NGOs lobbied for the Commission to be established. Advocate King’s fees are being paid by Amnesty International and the SJC is continuing to raise funds for Peters and Mbadu’s legal defence.
The courtroom atmosphere is fractious with frequent heated debates between the Judge and Advocate King about his line of questioning, and between the prosecution and defence about the timeliness and manner with which key documents have been provided. The two police stations concerned have been unable to furnish several important documents, such as the pocket books that von Sitters and Wilhelm carried that night.
The State continued bringing witnesses this week, beginning with the ambulance assistant who accompanied the victim to Groote Schuur Hospital, where he later died. The defence is expected to begin calling witnesses next week. The trial was scheduled for two weeks of hearing but is now in its seventh week, with no end in sight.
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