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Kimberley - The State will oppose bail for the 16-year-old accused charged with the murders of three members of the Steenkamp family on their farm Naauwhoek in Griquastat on Good Friday because it is convinced that he poses a grave danger to society.
The boy slept inside the juvenile section of the Griquastat police holding cells on Thursday night after the bail hearing was not concluded yesterday in the Griquastat Magistrate’s Court.
The investigating officer, Colonel Dick de Waal, will present evidence before court on Friday regarding the murders of Deon Steenkamp, 44, his wife Christel, 43, and their daughter Marthella, 14.
Presiding magistrate OS Maswi, from Groblershoop, permitted the media to attend the court proceedings on Thursday due to the huge public interest and following an application to allow journalists inside the courtroom.
The court warned reporters not to publish anything that could indirectly implicate the boy in the murders or refer to him in any way where the public could “read between the lines”, thus identifying him.
State Advocate Hannes Cloete, from the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP), indicated that no person’s safety could be guaranteed if the accused was granted bail.
“The State has overwhelming evidence to prove that the husband, wife and daughter were murdered with intent and in cold blood.
“The accused thought that he could get away with what happened. This hope has been destroyed, due to his involvement and seriousness of the crime. It is not in the interests of justice to avail him his freedom or to jeopardise the welfare of the people that he comes into contact with. If you have killed, you cannot continue with your life as if nothing happened without any repercussions.”
He added that, according to the investigating officer, the accused had known for a long time that he was a suspect in the case.
“The DPP informed the defence that his client was a suspect on May 23.”
He added that the parents of fellow learners at the boy’s school, had complained to the chairman of the school governing body (SGB) because they were unhappy about the fact that the boy was still attending classes.
“The complaint was reported to a Colonel De Waal. The impression created is that, despite the crime, the accused’s life has not been disrupted as he is continuing with school and sports activities.”
Cloete pointed out that the accused was being treated as the victim whereas he was the offender.
He advised that the accused will be able to continue with his schooling if he is held in custody at a youth centre.
“Although there are no classes for the grade that he is in, the head of the centre indicated that they would be able to arrange for the provision of exam papers as well as the necessary learning materials. He will also be given access to his private social worker.”
Cloete acknowledged that, in the four months prior to his arrest, the accused had neither jeopardised the investigation nor harmed anyone.
He, however, believed that the witnesses called by the defence did not provide any exceptional or compelling circumstances to motivate his release from custody.
Legal representative for the accused, Advocate Willem Coetzee, pointed out that following discussions with the legal guardian of the accused, the SGB and the school principal, it was resolved that the accused should return to school.
The legal guardian (who can not be identified in order to protect the identity of the accused) stated that he shared a good relationship with the accused.
“His legal advisors instructed us not to talk about the case. My family and I have been supporting him through this negative experience as well as suggestions in the media that he could be involved in the crime.
“Although everyone knew of his impending arrest, it was a traumatic experience for him. I am not aware of any previous offences that he has committed.”
The witness added that he had sent the accused to consult with a clinical psychologist in Kimberley.
“I cannot tell for sure if he is really coping - it is important for him to continue and finish his schooling.”
Social worker, Francois Alwyn Kros, told the court that the support displayed by the legal guardian and his family as well as the school, amounted to an exceptional circumstance.
“Until the boy is convicted of any offence he should be allowed to continue with his life as normally as possible.”
He added that it would have a detrimental effect should the boy be removed from his school environment. “It is hard to say how he will react to the media attention he has received. I do not have any evidence to prove he is guilty, and should he be found guilty I will still support him in a therapeutic environment.”
Kros reported that at the time of his arrest, his fellow learners showed compassion towards their friend who was handcuffed and arrested at the school on Tuesday.
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* Comments have been closed on this story to protect the identity of the minor in the case.