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Pretoria - Taxpayers were spared paying R1.1 million in damages to a former murder and rape suspect when three judges overturned a previous court ruling ordering police to pay the damages to the man.
The judges not only questioned the award of damages to Beka Israel Linda by another judge, but also frowned upon the large amount that was awarded.
Earlier, Linda claimed about R1.7m from the minister of police for unlawful arrest, detention and assault while in custody.
He remained in jail for nearly a year before the director of public prosecutions decided not to prosecute him. It is not clear from the appeal judgment why he was not prosecuted.
The police, following the ruling that they had to pay damages, appealed against the matter.
Judges John Murphy, EM Kubushi and N Khumalo found the police had acted with reasonable suspicion when they arrested Linda and were not guilty of any wrongdoing.
Linda was arrested in August 2004 after a rape victim identified him as her attacker. She also claimed he murdered her boyfriend. It emerged that the victim and Linda were at some stage also lovers.
Inspector Tinyiko Chauke, who arrested Linda, testified he was called to a murder scene in Xikundaville in Limpopo. He found the body of a man next to a car and it appeared he had been shot.
He was told a woman who had also been shot in the same incident was in hospital. He went to the victim and she told him her boyfriend (the dead man) had fetched her on the night of the incident.
They drove to a secluded area, where they had sex.
She lay on her back on the car seat, while her boyfriend stood outside the vehicle. While having sex, her boyfriend drew her attention to another man, whom she identified as Linda, who was watching them.
Her boyfriend switched on the car lights and she identified the man with whom she had had an intimate relationship earlier.
The man disappeared into the darkness and the couple carried on having sex.
The woman said she suddenly heard a gunshot and her boyfriend screamed. He fell down and she realised she too had been wounded by the same shot.
She said the attacker came closer and shot her boyfriend again as he lay on the ground.
Linda then dragged her out of the car and raped her at gunpoint, she said. He threatened to kill her if she reported the murder and rape and identified him as the culprit.
After this statement, Chauke arrested Linda.
The victim’s sisters, meanwhile, also told police she had told them Linda was the attacker.
Linda denied any wrongdoing and told the court he had an alibi, as he went to buy a chicken for his grandmother that night, which he cooked for her.
He said the police should never have arrested him in the first place, as they only had the evidence of the victim and her sisters, but they failed to follow up on his alibi.
The judge, who awarded the damages earlier, said it was clear Linda did not present a danger to society.
But on appeal, the judges said it was “hard to fathom this”.
“At the time of the arrest, Chauke had information from a wounded victim that she had been raped and shot by the respondent (Linda) and that he had killed her lover in an apparent fit of jealousy.
“She also said he threatened to kill her if she disclosed his identity.
“Most right-thinking people would have considered the respondent, on the basis of such information, to pose a potential danger,” Judge Murphy said. It was also not clear how the court concluded he should receive R1.1m in damages.