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A crowd of about 200 people gathered outside Atlantis police station on Thursday awaiting the release of a man accused of a mob justice killing.
The victim of the vigilante killing was accused of murdering the brother of the man who had handed himself over to police for questioning on Wednesday.
The 35-year-old man’s brother, 24, was killed after a dispute on Sunday.
When it became clear that the police were intending to hold the man overnight, a crowd of about 500 people gathered in Witsand (an informal settlement outside Atlantis) and marched on the police station, demanding his release.
The man had been due to appear in the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, but negotiations between his lawyer and the magistrate had led to his release without charge, said Cyril Dicks, Atlantis police station spokesman. “The murder investigation is still ongoing. If enough evidence is gathered to positively link him to the murder, we will not hesitate to arrest him.”
A hero’s welcome awaited the man as he left the gates of the Atlantis police station on Thursday.
He was ushered to the front of a singing crowd and led them on foot back to Witsand.
Community members were reluctant to discuss the circumstances that led to the killing of the man suspected of murdering the released man’s brother.
The released man said: “It is not right what was done. But sometimes we have no choice. We have lost our confidence in the police.”
“We will stand as one,” shouted a man over a megaphone to the crowd.
“Investigators will come to our houses and ask us questions, but we will all say: ‘We don’t know’.”
Ward councillor Barbara Rass said the mob killing was an “isolated incident” that stemmed from an argument between two men.