An Ekurhuleni metro police officer is a free man after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) overturned his murder conviction and 15-year prison sentence.
According to the SCA, there were fundamental errors committed by the full bench of the North Gauteng High Court when convicting Rolston Pillay, who at the time, was attached to the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD).
The SCA found that a full bench of the high court, which held that Pillay's version of self-defence was not true, was not correct.
Pillay was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for murder after fatally shooting one of two robbers - who had shot at Pillay in an attempt to not be caught - while conducting official patrols.
The deceased, a 17-year-old, was shot on May 19, 2017 when Pillay attended an accident scene.
"(Pillay) was informed by unidentified members of the community that a robbery was taking place at the nearby Wordsworth School, Farrarmere. He noticed two young men running from the direction of the school towards Bunyan Street and gave chase. According to Pillay, shots were fired at him by the alleged robbers," the judgment read.
Pillay had detailed how he pursued the robbers to a one-way street and when he called out for them to stop, they did not.
"Instead, one of the alleged robbers pulled out a revolver and fired a shot at him. In turn, he fired a shot in the direction of the alleged robbers. The alleged robbers ran towards the railway line. He stopped his vehicle along the embankment which was covered with tall grass.
"As he alighted from his vehicle, one of the alleged robbers fired a second shot in his direction. He took cover underneath a metal barrier on the side of the road where he fired two gunshots in the direction of the alleged robbers.
“One of the alleged robbers fell to the ground and the other ran away.
He then called for backup," the court heard.
The 17-year-old was declared dead at the scene when paramedics arrived.
Pillay submitted he acted in self-defence and fired shots in random directions without specifically aiming at them.
A single eyewitness, Mpilo Kubeka, was also probed about tailoring his evidence to implicate Pillay, resulting in his conviction, having testified that the robbers did not fire any shots at Pillay and that he had not seen a firearm in the alleged robbers’ possession and allegedly did not hear shots fired at Pillay.
"Contradicting his earlier evidence and the evidence of Burnell Motshepe (a constable involved in the case investigation), Kubeka’s evidence revealed that he had seen a firearm tucked in the trousers of one of the two suspects.
He stated that he did not mention this during the trial because he was persuaded by Motshepe who convinced him that he should put himself in the position of the deceased. It was therefore necessary for him to give evidence that would implicate the appellant.
"He conceded that he fabricated a material fact (that none of the alleged robbers were in fact in possession of a firearm) in order to assist the deceased.
In addition, he also gave an account of an incident in which he had been assaulted and forced to attend court by (a detective sergeant attached to EMPD) in order to give false evidence to implicate Pillay in the commission of the murder. (The detective) confirmed Kubeka’s version that he was forced to attend court but denied assaulting Kubeka," the judgment read.
Judge of appeal, Zamani Nhlangulela, said: "In my view on the probabilities, the position of the cartridges indicated in photographs clearly support the appellant’s version that he fired shots at different places and not all at once in the same vicinity... In light of the fact that the further material evidence was not taken into account and the approach to the evidence concerning self-defence was improper, the full bench misdirected itself.“