Durban - A green nylon rope allegedly used to strangle Wentworth teenager Tenique Stevens had not been produced as evidence, leading a Durban High Court judge to criticise the police for its investigation of the murder.

Judge Sharmaine Balton on Monday described the evidence as “crucial”.

She said Warrant Officer Anthony Brian Pillay of the Wentworth SAPS had conducted a poor investigation.

“A vital piece of information to the case has not been made available to court and also to the defence lawyer. It is not good that we do not have this evidence before us. We only have this week to conclude the case,” Judge Balton said.

But Pillay responded that the exhibit had been delayed in a police laboratory in Pretoria. He said his branch commander had made a special request as a “matter of urgency” and it would be made available today or later in the week.

Tenique was 16 when she was killed in 2012. Her partly naked body was found covered with black plastic at Cuttings Beach in Merebank by fishermen on June 5 that year, with a rope around her neck, her mouth stuffed with a cloth.

The accused, Navandhran Naicker, 36, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, statutory rape and theft.

He is alleged to have killed Tenique, then a Grade 11 pupil at Umbilo Secondary school.

Balton also questioned when Pillay arrived at the crime scene. Pillay claimed to have arrived at the scene by 5.45am on the day of Stevens’s disappearance. But his colleague, Constable Nokukhanya Shezi, who testified before him, had told the court that they arrived just before 7am.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Pregasen Marimuthu asked Pillay why he had failed to enter the cellphone confiscated from the accused in the SAP 13 form.

Pillay said it had happened before that cellphones “get mixed up”, so he decided to lock the phone in his office safe.

A friend of the deceased, Ayanda Msane, testified she had been with Tenique an afternoon before she disappeared and they had been chatting on Mxit.

“She slept at home on Saturday. The next day we met her boyfriend, Thabani Mkhize, at Merebank centre. I walked halfway to her home. After I left halfway to her home we started chatting on Mxit for about 45 minutes. She told me she was sitting outside her home because she had a fight with her mother before her visit to my home,” Msane said.

Tenique’s parents have asked she be identified as Greaves rather than Stevens.

She has been referred to as Stevens in court.

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