Cape Town - A police probe into the death of acting judge Patrick Maqubela took nine months to complete, the Western Cape High Court heard on Monday.
The judge's body was found in his apartment in Bantry Bay on June 7, 2009.
His widow Thandi Sheryl Maqubela and her business partner Vela Mabena are on trial before Pretoria-based Judge John Murphy on charges of murder fraud and forgery. They have pleaded not guilty.
The court heard that the investigation started as an inquest, in the belief that Maqubela died of natural causes.
It became a murder inquiry when, among other things, the judge's DNA and his widow's fingerprints were found on a piece of crumpled cling-wrap found in his apartment after his death.
On the fraud and forgery charges, prosecutors Bonnie Currie-Gamwo and Pedro van Wyk allege that Maqubela forged her husband's signature on a fake will, and presented it at the Pretoria office of the Master of the High Court.
At Monday's proceedings, investigating officer Colonel Reynold Talmakkies said he began investigating the possibility that the judge's death was a murder when his missing cellphone was “miraculously” found in his apartment, and when the pathologist who did the post mortem could not confirm that the death was from natural causes.
“Because the deceased was a judge, we regarded it as a high-profile matter,” said Talmakkies.
“I took over the investigation on June 8, 2009. I changed the docket from an inquest inquiry to a murder investigation the next day, and arrested Maqubela on March 25, 2010.”
He said the judge had five life insurance policies, three of which were for R20 million.
He identified Maqubela and Mabena as the suspected murderers because of the discovery of the cling-wrap, the cellphone and the policies, he told the court.
He obtained warrants for their arrest and went first to Maqubela's home in Sandton, Johannesburg.
“I went to the Sandton house on March 24, 2010, and arrived at 11pm. She was not in, and I waited in the front room for her. She arrived at 1.15am, with her attorney,” he said.
“She and her attorney went upstairs to a room, and both came down the stairs together at 2am. In the lawyer's presence, I warned Maqubela of her rights, arrested her and took her to the Sandton police cells.
“On our arrival at the Sandton police station, her advocate was also there, which meant she now had two legal representatives present.”
The next day he took Maqubela to Cape Town, where she was held at the Sea Point police cells, he said.
The hearing continues on Tuesday. - Sapa