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Pretoria - The High Court in Pretoria on Thursday rejected claims that racist white policemen had framed two black men for the murder of a Pretoria businessman.
Judge Tshifiwa Maumela found lawyer Marabe Talane, 39, and Rodney Katang Masemola, 35, guilty of the May 2008 murders of Murrayfield businessman Dawie Maree and their accomplice Seporo Martin Tshebesebe.
Maree, 27, was fatally wounded during a struggle with an armed assailant in his house, in front of his wife Elana and his two young children. He died after being shot in the back. The bullet entered his chest and left through his throat.
Masemola was shot in the stomach and Tshebesebe was shot dead during the attack.
Maumela said it was not clear from the evidence who had shot who, but it was clear that the shooting had been prompted by Masemola and Tshebesebe illegally entering the Maree property.
He said the accused knew someone might be hurt and die, including one of them and were criminally liable for both men's deaths.
Masemola's evidence that he and Tshebesebe were standing under a tree when Maree stormed out and shot them, whereafter Elana Maree emerged and fired a shot which killed her husband was also rejected.
Maumela said it was improbable that Maree's wife, who had a small build, could have carried or dragged her injured husband and the body of Tshebesebe to the bedroom, where a neighbour found them shortly afterwards. There was no evidence of drag marks or blood outside the house.
He rejected as improbable the accused's claim that white policemen had conspired against them and helped construct the scene. This theory entailed that the police would have had to carry a bolt cutter with them for months while waiting for Masemola to recover from his injuries so they could later plant it in his room, he said.
Both accused were convicted on charges of housebreaking and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Their advocate, Paul Shapiro, said his clients would apply for leave to appeal against their convictions. He argued that the two must be “the most stupid housebreakers in the history of South Africa” because they had broken open the house and the safe, but only walked away with a cellphone, a watch, and earrings.
“I am not minimising the seriousness of the offence, but on the spectrum of offences there are much worse. There can be little doubt that the two accused qualify as the worst social outcasts and as marginalised people in our society,” he said.
The trial was postponed to March 24 next year for pre-sentencing reports.
Maree's wife Elana van Breda (she has since remarried) cried throughout Thursday's proceedings.
She said she felt relieved that her husband's murderers had at last been convicted, but their wanting to appeal rubbed more salt into the wound.