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KZN cash heist gang convicted

Pietermaritzburg - There was a heavy police presence at the Pietermaritzburg High Court as the five members of the notorious N11 cash-in-transit heist gang were found guilty on Tuesday.

Several policemen, armed to the teeth, kept a close eye on the five accused as they listened to the verdict handed down by Judge Anton van Zyl.

Convicted cash heist robber and police officer, Siyabonga Nkwanyana, warns the Daily News photographer not to take his picture as he sits in the dock of the Pietermaritzburg High Court. Picture: Shan Pillay. Credit: Independent Newspapers

Jerody Mthimunye, Philemon Nhleko, Ewat Ndubuko, Zikethela Sokhela and police sergeant Siyabonga Nkwanyana were found guilty of a cash-in-transit heist on the N11 between Newcastle and Ladysmith on October 10, 2009.

The robbers got away with a total of R692 132 after using a truck to ram a G4 security vehicle, before blasting its safe open with explosives.

G4 security van driver George van Tonder, security guard Sibusiso Phakathi, and alleged member of the heist gang Ottoman Mhlekaze died of injuries they suffered in the forced collision.

Another guard, Johannes Mokoena, was injured.

In his judgment, Van Zyl ruled that by virtue of pointings-out and admissions made by Mthimunye, Nhleko and Sokhela upon their arrests, the court was satisfied they were part of the gang and were present at the robbery scene.

Sokhela’s palm print was also lifted off the security vehicle.

The judge also found that the three were unconvincing witnesses and rejected their alibis.

Ndubuko was found guilty after being identified by a witness to the robbery.

Van Zyl accepted the evidence of a nurse, Deborah Shabalala, who arrived on the accident scene by chance and who identified Ndubuko as playing a leading role.

She told the court that Ndubuko had been shouting out instructions to the other gang members.

Referring to police sergeant Nkwanyana, who is attached to the Ladysmith Dog Unit, the judge said it was clear that because of his knowledge of how police investigations work, Nkwanyana had tried to “keep one step ahead”, but had failed to dispute the evidence before the court.

“The only conclusion one can come to is that the accused was part and parcel of the robbery,” the judge said.

Evidence of cellphone calls made to and from the crash scene by all of the accused also played a large role.

Argument in mitigation and aggravation of sentence will be heard on Wednesday.

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