The Durban bail hearing of 18 members of the Cato Manor branch of the Durban Organised Crime Unit was “a complete abuse of process”, the Durban Regional Court has heard.
Advocate Guido Penzhorn described Colonel Frans Khola's admission that some of the 18 had been part of operations where suspects had died as “startling”.
Penzhorn was delivering his closing argument at the bail hearing of the 18 officers.
The officers were arrested on a number of murder charges allegedly related to their work at the unit.
Khola said, earlier under cross-examination, that although some of the officers were not directly involved in the alleged murders, they had been charged with murder.
He said this was because they were part of the operation that resulted in the deaths of suspects.
“This is all about common purpose.”
It emerged that one of the officers - Johnny Smith - was not even a member of the Cato Manor unit at the time of the 2008 murder for which he is accused. He was part of the police's gambling unit.
Khola admitted that there was no ballistic evidence linking Smith to the crime scene, saying Smith had been placed at the crime scene by other members of the Cato Manor unit.
Penzhorn said that the State's case was at best weak.
He said the state had failed to provide any evidence that the accused would interfere with witnesses or tamper with evidence.
There was a heavy security presence at the court.
Ten heavily armed police officers were present at the court, which was again filled with relatives of the 18 officers.
The 18 face 71 charges which include 14 charges of murder, 14 of unlawful possession of ammunition, 14 of unlawful possession of firearms, and four of house-breaking.
One of the 18 men - Rubendren “Shane” Naidoo - arrived late after visiting the funeral parlour to pay his last respects to his 27-year old brother who had recently died.
The 18 men who appeared in court on Friday are: Gonasagern Padayachee, 44, Adriaan Stolz, 51, Paul Mostert, 51, Eric Nel, 41, Captain Neville Eva, 45, Adjithsingh Ghaness, 41, Phumelela Makhanya, 45, Willem Olivier, 59, Peter George, 51, Thembinkosi Mkhwanazi, 47, Mhlabunzima Thabethe, 49, Thathayiphi Mdlalose, 48, Charles “Johnny” Smith, 40, Jeremy Marten, 39, Naidoo, 33, Raymond Lee, 31, Anton Lockem, 44, and Bruce McInness, 43. - Sapa