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Durban - Two of the four men charged with killing artist Clinton de Menezes tried to escape from the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday, leading to panic and confusion, before they were tackled by two policemen.
De Menezes, who had found fame as an artist in Britain, was shot dead on New Year’s Eve in front of his family and friends.
Mustachioed Siyabonga Khoza and scarfaced Bongani Makhatini – both dressed in black shirts, Khoza’s bearing the image of a bat – slipped from the dock, left the court and blended in with the crowd going down a flight of stairs.
They did this moments before they were due to appear before magistrate NN Ngcobo after the tea break, as members of the public were taking their seats.
The two got as far as the court’s cash hall when investigating officer Warrant Officer Thulani Dludla nabbed Khoza and a policeman named Zondi caught Makhatini.
“I had to use a scrum tackle,” said Dludla, who played prop at JL Dube School in KwaMashu.
“I asked him: ‘What are you doing?’ He could not answer.”
The escape attempt caused court officials to comment on the lax security in the packed courtroom, where there appeared to have been only one orderly, who was unarmed.
When the two would-be escapers finally appeared, along with three others, none of them were handcuffed.
Several security breaches at the Pinetown court have made headlines in recent months.
In November, police arrested a man who had run away from security guards, after wrenching a heavy metal turnstile out of its setting at the entrance to the court.
Earlier last year, a prisoner escaped, prompting a policeman to shoot at him while chasing him over a wall surrounding the court complex and into the streets.
A bullet deflected off a journalist’s car door as he and a guard took cover. Two prosecutors’ cars were also apparently hit.
However, according to police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker, security at the Pinetown court was tight yesterday. “There were two court orderlies inside the court and the court was full.
“Members of public were instructed to close the door but because people were coming in and out of the court, someone did not.
“The suspects saw an opportunity to escape but they were apprehended before they could leave the building,” he said.
During the hearing, defence lawyers for the five accused abandoned their bail applications.
Two of the three others, Tevin Ngidi and Ntokozo Langa, face charges of murder and robbery, along with Khoza and Makhatini, while a third, Burundian Fisto Alimasi was arrested for possession of stolen property. He may be charged as an accessory.
Prosecutor Stan Milaszewski said the group had been linked to two other robberies in Westville.
Khoza had been in the dock earlier in the morning for yet another Westville robbery case, bringing the total he is linked to, to four.
The magistrate postponed the hearing to January 27. Milaszewski said a post-mortem report was still outstanding.
De Menezes, originally from Durban, had been on holiday here with his family from Kenya when robbers shot him through a glass sliding door at the home of his hosts, Amanda and Simon Malpas.
He had been trying to help his friend close the door to keep the men out when he was killed. - The Independent on Saturday