‘Death squad’ cops linked to 28 murders

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iol news pic Cato Manor Cops bailed aug 22

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File poto: Some of the Cato Manor organised crime unit members, as they were leaving a police station after being arrested earlier this year. Picture:Sandile Ndlovu

Durban - Thirty Durban policemen, mostly former members of the disbanded Organised Crime Unit – Cato Manor, were confronted in court on Friday with 116 charges involving 28 murders and a host of other alleged crimes.

Several of the murder charges involved alleged house break-ins, and the allegation is that police planted firearms next to the bodies of some victims, staging the killings as shoot-outs.

Fifty of the charges involve illegally possessing firearms or ammunition, or illegally pointing weapons.

There are 23 indictments involving defeating the course of justice, six of theft, nine of housebreaking/murder, an attempted murder, three involving assault with intent to to grievous bodily harm, one for malicious damage to property, and two involving racketeering.

According to an 88-page indictment presented in a Durban Regional Court this morning the policemen’s illegal acts “constitute a pattern of racketeering activities”.

The indictment alleged that “unlawful activities of the enterprise” began from May 2008 to September 2011 through a “pattern of racketeering activities.”

“They killed members of the KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association which was in conflict with the Stanger Taxi Association, ordinary civilians and/or suspects and criminal gangs suspected of ATM bombings,” according to the indictment.

“In some of the killings the unlawful activities were motivated by the desire to enrich themselves through State monetary awards and or certificates for excellent performances and financial benefits from associations and or businesses and or individuals in conflict with the deceased in the preferred charges.”

The indictment claimed that the officers would in most of the killings place a firearm next to the deceased to create an impression that the person had been armed.

The officers are also accused of breaking into the homes of their victims, stealing their possessions and damaging their property. In some instances, family members of their victims who were on the premises would be assaulted.

In June, 18 policemen linked to the so-called death squad were arrested. On Wednesday 12 more, including provincial Hawks boss, Major-General Johan Booysen, who was responsible for the Durban Organised Crime Unit, were arrested after investigations by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Last December, soon after a DVD was leaked to the media, allegedly exposing the systematic killing of suspects in custody, Ipid announced a review of all cases involving the unit.

 On Thursday, the second batch of policemen were granted R 5 000 bail by Regional Court Magistrate Delia Turner. This time the State did not oppose bail.

A list of State witnesses was expected to be handed to the defence yesterday to enable the bail condition that the accused not interfere with witnesses.

Ipid spokesman, Moses Dlamini, told journalists that investigators were ready to take the matter to trial and had a “very, very strong case”.

The appearance today of all 30 policemen was brief. Bail of R5 000 each was extended, and they were told to appear back in court on October 29.

The indictment had a list of more than 200 witnesses including pathologists, Ipid investigators and ballistics experts.

Former unit commander of the Durban Organised Crime Unit, Colonel Rajen Iyer, who many speculated would be a key state witness, was not on the list.

The accused were: Johan Booysen,55; Gonasagren Padayachee, 44; Adriaan Stoltz, 45; Paul Mostert, 51; Eric Nel, 41; Neville Eva, 45; Adjithsignh Ghaness, 41; Phumelela Makyanya, 45; Willie Olivier, 59; Thembinkosi Mkhwanazi, 47; Thathayiphi Mdlalose, 48; Bongani Zondi, 43; Rubendren Naidoo, 33; Raymond Lee,31; Anton Lockem, 44; Jan Van Tonder, 56; Musawenkosi Nkabane,48; Nico Crouse, 42; Felokwakhe Dlamuka,46, Sandile Mfene, 31; Sibongile Sikhulume, 37; Vincent Auerbach,40; Peter George, 51; Mhlabunzima Thabethe,49; Charles Smith, 40; Jeremy Martem, 39; Bruce Mc Innes, 43; Shane Smith, 44; Asogram Pillay, 47; and Mukesh Panday, 48.

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