Exploring the Trial
In summary, the State’s case was based mostly on witness testimony that the Waterkloof 4 had assaulted an unknown man in Constantia Park and later that night brutally assaulted and killed another unknown man in Moreleta Park. The Waterkloof 4 denied the first assault but admitted to the second assault, with exception that they killed the man or intended to kill him. The only evidence other than witness testimony was the second victim’s body.
Constantia Park assault (alleged first assault according to witness testimony)
The accused vehemently denied this assault took place and thus the State had to prove this event occurred. As mentioned, the only evidence was that of the State’s witnesses as there was no case of assault reported to police and the unknown man was never seen or heard from again.
The Defence accused the witnesses of fabricating the story and this accusation is given some credibility when the State’s witnesses left gaps in their testimony. The judge dismissed these gaps and other anomalies due to traumatic memory issues on behalf of the witnesses and accepted their testimony as fact. The defence also brought up the possibility of collusion which the judge dismissed, even though the State’s witnesses had more than a year to collude.
Nevertheless, the Defence had to counter the State’s witnesses’ testimony and did so by looking at phone calls which were used to identify a time line and locations of individuals, with the help of cellular phone towers. Although the calls placed the accused in the vicinity of the second assault (Moreleta Park), they placed significant doubt on whether the Constantia Park assault was possible as it gave the accused (and witnesses which drove with the accused) a maximum of 14 minutes to drive in a fully loaded Tazz from Hatfield, look for a shop to buy milk, assault the unknown man in Constantia, wait “5 minutes” for the other accused to meet up with them and then get to Moreleta Park. To make the State’s case worse, the State’s witnesses testifiedthat they were not speeding but the judge corrected this and stated that they were probably speeding, overriding State’s witness testimony and again raising doubts over the credibility of their testimony. The Defence also questioned why the accused had driven through Constantia Park, as this was a longer route to where they were heading.
Although the accused’s testimony represented a more reasonable and logical explanation of events as it more reasonably fits the timing of the calls and the logic route to their destination, the accused testimony was dismissed as lies as it contradicted the testimony of the State’s witnesses. In the end there was no reliable evidence to put the accused at this crime scene other than the State’s witnesses’ testimony which was accepted as reliable.
Near the end of the examination of the Constantia Park assault, the State prosecutor went on to say that the witnesses might have mistaken this event with something that happened on another day:
“Edel Agbare, oor hulle getuienis daar op kan hulle verwar het met ‘n ander dag. Dit is hoekom ek nie hard wil betoog oor hierdie klagte nie”
This was ignored by the judge.
Moreleta Park assault
The accused admitted to brutally assaulting an unknown man in Moreleta Park, who they claim was a burglar who had just robbed a residence. This was backed up by the State’s main witness. The Defence however questioned whether the man found in the park was actually the man they assaulted, an outrageous claim, but appears to be supported by the physical evidence (see below). Again the State relied heavily on State’s witness testimony that the man found in the park was the man the accused assaulted as the man was found in “exactly” the same place the next day after the assault. It must be noted that the main State’s witness, who is not one of the Waterkloof 4, was also involved in the assault but was given immunity for turning State’s witness.
One of the State’s witnesses had disclosed to a teacher that the motive for the attack was purely racial while the accused say that they had gone after a man who had run across the road with a television. They suspected the man of being involved in a burglary. On the day of discovering the victim in the park, a car radio was found next to the victim and this was later found to be stolen as a case of robbery had been reported to the SAPS. The victim was also found with a wallet (money inside), watch, and a ring and was well dressed with new shoes, smart cap and had four tattoos, which appears contrary to the claims that this man was homeless. The State’s witness confession to the teacher prior to the arrests was that the accused never knew of the stolen goods during the attack and only used this as an excuse to do what they did. Contradicting stories meant that it was up to the State to prove murder.
Besides the State’s witness testimony, the State had very little evidence:
- · No physical evidence linking the accused to the victim (no DNA, no trace evidence)
- · No murder weapon (no knives, no hammer)
- · No time of death (due to “refrigeration”)
By all accounts the assault was described as brutal. Besides the melee of punching and kicking, one of the accused had demonstrated his “Naas Botha” kicks on the victim. A State’s witness testified that this accused had kicked the victim twice in the face with steel tipped shoes, one of which was later found to be dented in. This was confirmed by the aforementioned accused. The entire group had jumped with full weight on the victim like in a “lose rugby scrum”. Another of the accused had hit the victim twice on the crane of the head with a hammer, the first blow bringing the victim to his knees while the second blow floored the victim completely. All of this was admitted by the accused and agrees to State witness testimony. The State’s witness also testified that the accused had made stabbing motions towards the victim (admitted by the accused) but cannot confirm whether the accused had stabbed the victim.
The post mortem indicated that the unknown man had died of severe blood loss cause by one deep cut in his thigh. Besides this cut, the medical experts made the following findings:
· There were no bruises or fractures to the skull
· There was minor subdural hematoma but no swelling on the brain or any other change to structure of the brain. The fact of whether the hematoma was caused by the assault could not be determined.
· Three small scars on the head, two of which had scabbed before the assault, the other one showed no signs of significant bleeding
· Face, nose, tongue, throat showed no bruising, discolouration, bleeding, lacerations or scarring
· There were no broken teeth
· There was no bruising or trauma to the neck
· There was no bruising or trauma to the chest and diaphragm
· There was no bruising or trauma to the abdomen
· Internal organs showed no trauma but some were bleak due to blood loss
· No bruises or fracturing on the back
· No noticeable bruising, fractures or trauma to the rest of the body
With regards to the cut in the thigh (cause of death), the medical experts made the following conclusions:
· The victim had lost between 4 – 5 litres of blood, which meant he would have bleed to death over a 24 – 48 hour period as no major arteries were penetrated.
· With regards to the object that made the stab wound, the medical specialist found that: “Hierdie gat konnie veroorsaak gewees het deur ‘n mes, of selfs ‘n dun yesterstraaf nie” or in English, this could not have been made by a knife. The object appeared similar to a spike on a palisade fence which backs up the Defence’s claims that the victim had cut himself on a palisade fence while fleeing from a residence he had burgled.
This exposed serious questions against the State’s argument that the victim found in the park was the man that the accused claim they assaulted. Some of these questions raised by the Defence were:
· Physical evidence on the victim shows no correlation to the assault as described by the accused and the witnesses. There is no evidence that suggests a knife or hammer was used in the attack even though a State’s witness had testified that he had seen blood on the hammer after the attack. There was also no evidence that the boys had jumped on the victim or kicked the victim in the face. When the pathologist is asked by the Defence whether it was obvious that the body brought before her was not the body of the man as described in the assault, she answers “Yes that is correct.” A second pathologist replies with the same answer.
· The crime scene inspector found no evidence of blood on the ground near or beneath the victim, or anywhere else in the park for that matter. Where did 4 – 5 litres of blood go? The State contested that the light rain that night may have washed away any evidence of blood or that the victim’s clothing had absorbed all of the blood but this was disputed by the Defence.
· The flow of blood on the victim suggests the possibility the body was moved after death and moved to the spot where the body was eventually found.
· If the only injury the victim sustained was the cut to the thigh and the victim took between 24 and 48 hours to bleed to death, why did the man remain in the same spot for this lengthy period of time? Why didn’t he seek medical treatment or at least crawl/limp away from the scene?
· The victim’s shoes were removed while there had been no mention of this by the accused or State’s witnesses.
In the end however the judge ruled, after quoting a previous case “the State vs. Bernardus 1965”, that the body is full of anomalies and that sometimes death can be caused by the slightest of assaults. Although this judgement contradicts all witness accounts and the physical evidence, this ultimately leads to the guilty verdict for the Waterkloof 4.
Next Page: The Verdict