Cape Town - One of the men accused of killing Olwyn Cowley in the so-called “Gumtree murder” trial says he was not interested in buying the vehicle advertised and that their initial meeting was expected to be a “joyride”.
On Monday, Jason Elias, who was driving the car when Cowley was shot, testified in the Western Cape High Court.
Cowley was killed in August 2012 after allegedly meeting potential buyers for his BMW, which he had advertised on Gumtree.
Elias said he and co-accused Shawaal Staggie decided to meet Cowley for a joyride because they had nothing to do at the time.
During his testimony, Judge Anton Veldhuizen often asked Elias to slow down and stick to providing simple answers. Before the tea break, the judge encouraged Elias to get his thoughts together.
Elias, who lives in Westridge, Mitchells Plain, is out on bail. His co-accused Staggie, Rameez Felix and Soegbudien Abvajee are in custody.
Murder and aggravated robbery are among the charges they face.
Elias said he worked in the IT section of his father’s company and had met Staggie a few nights before Cowley’s murder.
He met Felix and Abvajee on the day Cowley was killed – August 30.
Earlier that month, Elias and Staggie, who were interested in cars, checked Gumtree.
They found Cowley’s advertisement, called him and arranged the meeting at Canal Walk. They also exchanged contact details.
Earlier, the court heard that Cowley had a slip of paper with the false name of Jason Petersen, but Elias’s real ID number.
Elias denied giving a false name, saying he hadn’t seen what Cowley had written on the paper when they had exchanged details. “No. Why would I? My surname is Elias, why would I say it’s Petersen?” Elias asked.
He said that during the meeting Cowley appeared distracted, constantly answering phone calls. He also seemed “desperate” to sell the car.
Days passed and Cowley tried to contact Elias on a few occasions.
On August 30, 2012, Staggie asked Elias to give him a lift to his friend, Felix. The trio had a meal at Abvajee’s house in Athlone. From there they went to Canal Walk when Elias returned a call to Cowley and later met him at the garage.
Abvajee accompanied Elias to view the car. He asked questions and insisted on the test drive.
Elias denied that there were any plans to rob and kill Cowley.
Describing the shooting, Elias said he had heard the shots but had never looked at Cowley.
“I’ve been trying to piece things together. I was in a complete state of shock. All I can remember is the buzzing. I was frozen I couldn’t do anything.”
The trial continues.