City law enforcement officer Morné Horn, who was found guilty of two murders in 2021, including that of an undercover police officer, has had his sentence and conviction overturned by a Full Bench of the Western Cape High Court.
Horn was convicted on two counts of murder, and sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment in November 2017.
He had pleaded not guilty, and after he was granted leave to appeal by the Supreme Court of Appeal, he approached the Western Cape High Court again.
At the heart of his appeal was whether he acted in self-defence when he fired two shots.
Horn, who had handed himself over to the Hawks after the incident last year, had shot SAPS Constable Thandimfundo Sigcu, who was performing undercover duties while arresting Bongani Jack for allegedly dealing in drugs.
In his plea explanation, Horn said: “As we approached the two persons, (law enforcement) officer Blom shouted at Sigcu to put his hands in the air. Sigcu stopped the assault and began to draw a pistol from his left hip. Officer Blom immediately shouted at Sigcu to put the firearm down. I also shouted at him to put the firearm down. He did not adhere to the warnings and pointed the firearm directly at us. I believed that he was on the point of shooting us, and fired two shots at him.”
The State relied on the evidence of three witnesses and also closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage as well as the transcript of an audio recording.
The two-way radio carried by Blom was also switched on during the incident. On the audio recording of the radio control centre, Blom can be heard shouting frantically, court papers read.
At 20:34:17 in the audio, the following was recorded: “Hey, put it down, put it down, down, down, down, down, down, down, down.
Shoot him, shoot him.”At 20:34:31, shots were fired in quick succession.
Blom was shouting “shoot him” before the first and second shot was fired.
Acting Deputy Judge President Andre Le Grange found: “It is not in dispute that Sigcu carried a firearm on his body, when he wrestled with Jack, and after the shooting it was found lying on the ground. The CCTV footage also shows Sigcu standing slightly to his left and making a movement with his left arm. The latter was confirmed by Warrant Officer Engelbrecht, the digital forensic investigator called by the State, when he viewed the footage.
“For all these reasons the appellant’s version that he acted in self-defence is reasonably possibly true. The two shots fired were also not a disproportionate response to neutralise the imminent threat that Sigcu posed at the time. It follows that the appeal against conviction must succeed,” Judge Le Grange found, concurred by judges Judy Cloete and Katherine Savage.
The City said Horn had been on administrative duty during his trial.
“The ruling affirms the City’s view that the officer acted in self-defence.
It is an unenviable position for any person in the enforcement services to find themselves in ... The City empathises with the families of those who lost their lives, as well as officer Horn.”