Cape Town - Within a week, the State’s key witness in an Ocean View triple murder case was dead, and the four alleged gangsters accused of the murders were free.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) confirmed all the charges against the alleged members of the Junkie Funkies gang had been dropped.
This comes after State witness Shileen “Linkie” Jacobs was shot dead last Monday.
She had witnessed the murder of Kim Roberts and newlyweds Leonardo and Shannon Fortune on December 5 last year.
Four men, Tashwell Koopman, Mario Theunis, Tyron Taylor and Carl Barendilla, were charged with their murders and were set to go on trial in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court.
Investigating officer Craig Phillips had testified during the bail application in April that the intended victim of the hit was Roberts.
He said the Fortunes were ”at the wrong place at the wrong time”.
Jacobs could place the four men at the scene of the crime and had identified them. This put her in danger, but she refused witness protection.
Her mother, who asked not to be named, told the Cape Argus her daughter wanted to be “free” and not play the part of a victim by submitting to intimidation.
Her family said many attempts had been made on Jacobs’s life. The first alleged attempt was after the four men had removed their balaclavas and spotted her shortly after the triple murder.
It was alleged that Koopman tried to shoot Jacobs in the face while his accomplices fled, but she survived as the gun jammed.
Phillips told the court Theunis went to the State witness’s house and threatened her.
He allegedly told her not to report anything to the police and offered her money to silence her.
Her grieving mother said further attempts were made on her daughter’s life in the weeks following the men’s arrest.
Last Monday at 1.50am, they finally succeeded when Jacobs ran away from witness protection.
She lay in a pool of blood in Hydra Avenue after a gun’s magazine was emptied into her chest.
On the evening of Jacobs’s funeral on Tuesday, her family pointed to some young juveniles called “bokkies” who they said helped kill her, but would not speak to the police because they were afraid they would be next on their hit list.
Residents say the child hitmen, recruited to commit murders, are feared even though they are as young as nine.
“I am heartsore about Linkie’s death, about the messy way she was killed. She did not deserve it. Everyone knows who killed her, but no one will talk. If you lived here and have seen people drop like flies for even speaking to police, you will understand the fear,” a family member said.
Jacobs’s grandmother, 69, said: “The men who killed my granddaughter walk up and down. But we will leave justice in the hands of God.”
Residents were angered that the four men were walking around as “celebrities” after they were released.
Many said they would have preferred them behind bars, but admitted it would not make a difference because, “they can reach you even if they are in prison”.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk confirmed two young men were arrested in connection with Jacobs’s murder at the weekend.
“Two suspects aged 16 and 17 have been arrested, both suspects are juveniles.
“One was arrested on Saturday and one on Monday. Both appeared in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court yesterday.”
Criminal law expert William Booth said prosecutors and the police had a major problem keeping star witnesses safe during trials.
“There have been instances were important witnesses have been killed,” he said.
In gang-ridden areas - such as Ocean View - criminals work with impunity which puts witnesses at risk. “The witness may be very vulnerable. Prosecutors and the police must be alive to that fact.
“This is one of the reasons why the witness protection programme was brought into being. The question is how effective is that? Some witnesses don’t want to comply with the programme which is governed by police and the NPA.
“Many witnesses don’t want to comply because they are placed away from their friends and family,” he said.
One of Jacobs’s friends, who saw her friend being killed, said she would miss her dearly.
“She was a wonderful person. Full of life and laughter,” she said.