Gumtree murder trial: accused admits shooting

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cowley family Independent Newspapers Olwyn Cowleys family leave the high court. Picture: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town -

One of the accused in the so-called Gumtree murder trial has admitted to shooting Olwyn Cowley four times in the head, allegedly on the instructions of his co-accused while they took his car for a test drive.

Soegbudien Abvajee has pleaded guilty to murdering Cowley, 21, for his silver BMW325ti, giving details in his plea explanation of what happened on August 30, 2012.

Abvajee, 54, who was once the most wanted criminal in the province after robbing a bottle store in Ottery in 2001 while posing as a police officer, had been sentenced to 15 years in jail and paroled shortly before Cowley was murdered.

He is on trial with Jason Elias, Shawaal Staggie, Fameez Felix and Tania Majiet in the Western Cape High Court.

In the plea, Abvajee said Elias, Staggie and Felix had “unexpectedly” fetched him at his Athlone home. They drove to the Shell garage at Century City where Elias had arranged to meet Cowley who had advertised his car on Gumtree.

Copy of ca p6 main Soegbodien Abvadjee done Soegbudien Abvajee, right, enters the Western Cape High Court. Co-accused Fameez Felix is on the left. Picture: Cindy Waxa Independent Newspapers

Staggie allegedly instructed Abvajee to pretend to be Elias’s father and to say they wanted to take the car for a test drive. Staggie also allegedly handed Abvajee the gun, saying it was “one up” - meaning it was loaded and ready to be fired. Abvajee said he was told to shoot Cowley or that he would be shot if he didn’t comply.

“While driving (Elias) indicated to me to shoot (Cowley). I shot (Cowley) over the headrest, wounding him. I did so as I did not want to kill (Cowley). (Cowley) cried out to be taken to a doctor, taken to hospital. (Elias) cleaned the windscreen and ordered me to shoot (Cowley) again… through the head. I again, for fear of my life, did so. I shot (Cowley) three times,” Abvajee said.

They returned to the Shell garage, where Elias allegedly covered Cowley’s body with Abvajee’s jacket. They then met up with Staggie and Felix.

Soon afterwards, Staggie allegedly instructed Abvajee to accompany Elias to dump Cowley’s body in the vicinity of Swartklip Road and Baden Powell Drive.

The men drove to Majiet’s home in Mitchells Plain where Elias allegedly gave Cowley’s cellphone to her.

Majiet has denied any knowledge of the murder plot.

In the plea, Abvajee pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery, culpable homicide and the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.

When Judge Anton Veldhuizen asked Abvajee how he pleaded to the murder charge he said “guilty”. Prosecutor Nicolette Bell did not accept Abvajee’s guilty plea, so Judge Veldhuizen noted it as a formal admission. Cowley’s mother, Surita Cowley, and his girlfriend are to be called to the stand on Thursday as the first witnesses.

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Cape Argus

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