Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
Cape Town - As the Western Cape High Court trial of murder accused widow Thandi Maqubela resumed this week, the State spun a web of cellphone evidence around her.
The first witness to take the stand on Monday was Vodacom forensic liaison manager Petro Heyneke, who gave the court a timeline of communication between Maqubela’s Vodacom cellphone number and the Cell C number belonging to her husband, Acting Judge Patrick Maqubela, as well as the MTN number linked to her co-accused, Vela Mabena.
The State alleges that the acting judge was killed on June 5, 2009, and while a precise time of death has not been presented, the evidence of previous witnesses points to his failure to arrive at court that morning, where he was to preside over an appeal, along with Judge Daniel Dlodlo.
His registrar at the time, Joy Ely-Hanslo, testified last year that she received a call on the morning of June 5, 2009, from a woman who identified herself as Amanda, and who informed her that the acting judge had been admitted to hospital.
This week Hermanus Visagie, a Telkom expert presenting Telkom records to the court, showed that the call - made from the acting judge’s Cell C number - was received on the landline in his chambers at about 10.30am that day.
From then onwards, attempts to reach the acting judge proved fruitless, according to testimony from several witnesses last year.
Meanwhile, cellphone records before the court have also revealed that numbers linked to his wife were transmitting from the vicinity of The President Hotel, close to the apartment complex where his body was found, later that afternoon.
To further complicate things, the records showed that her Vodacom number sent SMSes to his Cell C number at 2.30pm, 3.18pm and 5.04pm on the day the acting judge was allegedly killed - all from the vicinity of the hotel. A call was then made from her number to his at 17.04pm, which lasted for 38 seconds.
The acting judge’s Cell C records, already before the court, showed that an SMS was sent from his phone to Mabena shortly before 2.30pm that day. About the same time, a call to his phone was made by Mabena, which lasted for 10 seconds – also in the vicinity of the hotel.
Among the phone records before the court are those for the acting judge’s Cell C number, and those for a Cell C and two Vodacom numbers linked to his wife.
When the records for the acting judge’s Cell C number were compared to the records for Maqubela’s three numbers, they showed that all three were active in the same areas at around the same time.
By June 6, the day after the acting judge was allegedly killed, the numbers were active in Joburg.
The following day, on June 7 – the day that the acting judge’s body was found – the numbers were active in the Eastern Cape, with an 18-second call made from Maqubela’s Vodacom number to her husband’s cellphone at about 5.45pm.
On June 8, t
he Cell C numbers for Maqubela and her husband were active at East London Airport after 11.30am, in Caledon shortly before 1pm, and at Cape Town International Airport at about 1.20pm.
All three numbers were traced to Cape Town that evening, active in the vicinity of The President Hotel.
About 5.30pm on June 8, police found the phone in the acting judge’s jacket pocket in the apartment.
Heyneke also testified about Maqubela’s Vodacom cellphone use between May 23 and 30, 2009, pointing out 13 calls she made to her husband, along with 18 SMSes she sent.
According to the evidence, there was strife in the couple’s marriage around this time; the acting judge’s nephew testified that he had spoken about divorcing Maqubela.
Previous evidence also indicated that it was during that period that Maqubela had been speaking to The Sowetan about exposing her husband’s extramarital affairs.
Earlier in the trial, Justice Minister Jeff Radebe testified that Maqubela met him between 12.30pm and 4pm on June 4 at his offices at Parliament on Plein Street, where she told him about her husband’s infidelity, and that she was intent on exposing him.
The Vodacom records show she was in the vicinity of Plein Street shortly before 4pm on June 4.
Radebe testified that she told him her husband was a sex addict, and that she had been investigating his affairs for about two to three years.
Maqubela disputes that her husband was killed, and intends to present evidence to show that he died of natural causes, and that the blood at the scene was the result of decomposition.
The trial continues on Monday.