Pretoria - The man who two years ago walked into Parrots Restaurant in Menlyn and shot dead a patron who was having lunch, has pleaded guilty to murder.
He said the deceased had been his business partner who owed him money after a deal went sour.
Ferhat Benbelkacem, 44, explained in a statement before the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Thursday that he put all his savings into the deal.
He and Makhiouf Osmani, 38, had planned to buy a shop together.
Benbelkacem shot Osmani three times – in the back and in the head – at lunchtime on November 26, 2012. Osmani died the next day.
The accused said in his explanation of plea: “I entrusted a large amount of money to the deceased. The venture never came off the ground, resulting in me losing all my savings amounting to R300 000.”
They were involved in various negotiations as well as litigation in an attempt for him to retrieve the money which Osmani owed him.
According to Benbelkacem, he was under enormous financial pressure which was worsened by the fact that Osmani refused to return his money.
On the day of the incident, he went to Exclusive Books in Menlyn and, when he walked out of the store, he noticed Osmani sitting at Parrots with an unidentified female. It appeared to him as if they were having a business meeting.
He went out of the centre and retrieved a firearm from an abandoned building site and returned to the restaurant.
“My original idea was to confront him about the money he owed me. But as I approached the area where he was seated I became so enraged that I decided to shoot him.
“I approached him from behind, took the firearm from a white plastic bag it was concealed in and fired three shots towards him from a short distance.”
The accused said he knew at the time that this would cause his death.
“After Osmani fell to the ground I turned around and left the area. I was apprehended and detained by security guards at the centre.”
Benbelkacem admitted that he shot Osmani intentionally and that he wanted him dead when he fired multiple shots into his back and head.
He also pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a gun and 30 rounds of ammunition. The serial number of the .38 revolver had been filed off. He said it was like that when he bought it in 2010 from its previous owner “to use for his own protection”.
After convicting him of murder and the unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, Judge Ferdi Preller postponed the case to August 6 for a pre-sentencing report.