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Durban - The Kings Park brawler who allegedly first rumbled with slain former Royal Marine Brett Williams could be used as a State witness against the others, it emerged on Monday.
Although he lined up as accused number five in the dock before Durban magistrate Vanitha Armu, Grant Cramer was named, along with his girlfriend and mother of his baby, Kirsten Cooper, as one of the witnesses whom the other accused were warned not to communicate with as part of their bail conditions.
A source close to the case said Cramer – the only one not facing a murder charge because the State does not allege he took part in the final attack on Williams, and who was given bail last week – might stand trial separately for assaulting Williams, or charges against him may be withdrawn completely so that he can testify against his friends.
There was opposition to bail from investigating officer Warrant Officer Anand Pillay, who in an affidavit spoke of the savage “pack attack” on Williams after the Sharks-Rebels clash two weeks ago and the subsequent national and international public outcry.
But, to a cry of “thank you, Jesus” from the public gallery, the magistrate granted bail of R5 000 each to brothers Blayne and Kyle Shepard, Andries van der Merwe and Dustin van Wyk, who are believed to be friends from their Glenwood High days. In his affidavit, read out by prosecutor Krishen Shah, the investigating officer described, for the first time, the events of that night.
He said Williams, a visitor from England, had first got into a fight with Cramer, who held him in a choke hold until he lost consciousness. Paramedics attended to him and he regained consciousness.
“Fidelity guards intervened and then the other accused arrived and got into a verbal and physical confrontation with them, with racial slurs being directed at the guards. The four men then viciously attacked Williams, punching, kicking and stomping on him.
“He had injuries to his forehead, face, hand and knees. Paramedics tried to save him, but he was declared dead at the scene.”
Shah said there had been reports of a previous attempt to intimidate a witness, but the person who made the claim had not wanted to open a case.
But Pillay had been contacted after the rugby last weekend by a witness who claimed a woman had come up behind her and said: “If you ID my son on Monday (at the parade) you will be killed.”
The witness could not identify the person making the threat because it had been crowded, and she was shocked. She, too, had yet to make a statement.
Shah said he could not say whether or nor it had been a prank or was linked to the accused.
However, on Monday the mothers of all the men hurriedly made sworn statements saying none of them had been at the rugby on Friday evening, and that they knew nothing about the alleged threat.
All four of the accused submitted their own affidavits detailing their personal circumstances, but disclosed nothing of their defence.
They all detailed how, despite public perception, they had through their lawyers been in constant touch with the investigating officer, had co-operated fully with the investigation and had handed themselves over when asked to.
They were not flight risks and intended to stand trial.
They were all first offenders and had no other pending cases.
Regarding the publicity surrounding the case, the Shepard brothers said it had been accompanied by “a distortion of facts and the publication of ill-informed opinions”, the majority of which were those of legal lay persons, demanding that the arrest and withholding of bail operate as a pre-emptive, retributive form of punishment.
In granting bail, the magistrate said that while there was a strong public outcry, she could not be swayed by emotion.
She ordered that they not enter Kings Park Stadium until the trial was over, saying that this was in the interests of the witnesses and the safety of the five young men.
They also have to report twice a week to their local police stations and hand over their passports.
They will appear in court again on June 7 when, Shah said, he hoped to set a trial date.