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Johannesburg - The family and friends of murdered Orange Grove resident Barney van Heerden say they are petrified that the three men arrested for his murder – who are suspected of being part of a gang targeting gay men in Joburg and Cape Town – may be released from custody due to the slowness of the police investigation.
Van Heerden’s murder in September 2011 was just one of eight killings across Gauteng that a provincial police task team is now probing – with several connections revealed between the cases.
But the killings are not limited to just Gauteng, with police announcing in November they believe members of the gang responsible may have committed similar crimes in Cape Town.
Maxwell Nyathi, Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Bheki Maseko appeared in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court yesterday, their case postponed until the middle of next month for probable transfer to the South Gauteng High Court.
The State asked for more time to acquire blood test results and post-mortem information, but Magistrate Paul du Plessis said that should the investigation not be complete by April 18, he would strike the case from the roll, an announcement that shocked Van Heerden’s family and friends.
His sister, Anchen Jooste, says if the men are released, or the police do not arrest more gang members, more gay men will die.
“There will definitely be other victims… this has to stop now” Jooste told The Saturday Star.
She was particularly unhappy with the speed of the investigation, and the lack of updates from the investigating officers – often for months on end.
She said it took more than 18 months for the post-mortem reports to be completed, and vital evidence had still not been acquired by investigators.
Documents submitted to the court at the men’s last appearance indicated that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was calling for the investigation’s completion as soon as possible for a trial date to be set.