Pretoria restaurant shooter convicted

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Pretoria - An Algerian who shot dead a fellow countryman in a restaurant in Menlyn Centre in Pretoria two years ago was convicted on Thursday on a charge of murder.

Judge Ferdi Preller in the High Court in Pretoria convicted Fehrat Benbelkacem, 44, of Germiston, on charges of murder and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition after he pleaded guilty to the charges.

He said in a statement he had shot Makhlouf Osmani, 38, on November 26, 2012, in a fit of anger because of a failed business venture.

The two men - both Algerian nationals - were apparently planning to buy a cafe but Benbelkacem lost his life savings of R300 000 when the deal collapsed.

Benbelkacem, who was dressed in faded jeans and wrinkled sweater, listened quietly and without any apparent emotion as his lawyer, Jack Gerber, read out his plea explanation.

Osmani, a businessman, had been sitting at a table in the Parrots restaurant where he was having a business lunch with a woman, when Benbelkacem strolled into the restaurant, pulled a firearm out of a white plastic bag and shot him in the back and head at point-blank range before casually leaving the restaurant.

The shooter was apprehended and detained by security guards at the centre and subsequently arrested by the police.

According to Benbelkacem, he had just left a bookstore in the centre when he noticed Osmani sitting in the restaurant.

“I admit that I intentionally fired the shots towards the deceased knowing quite well that this will result in his death,” he said.

“After (he) fell to the ground, I turned around and left the area.”

He got the murder weapon, whose serial number had been removed, from a previous employer two years earlier.

The trial was postponed to August for a pre-sentencing report by a social worker.

Sapa


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