Pretoria -A thumb print left on an unopened packet of 10 Camel cigarettes on the floor of the Engen Quick Shop in Kilner Park, Pretoria, has cost a man dearly, as he will now have to spend 68 years in jail.

Pretoria High Court Judge Bert Bam on Friday sentenced Sibusiso Moloi to a total of 68 years after he was earlier convicted on 10 charges.

This followed bomb blasts nearly five years ago, during which two ATMs were blown up in the early hours of June 18, 2008. A gang of AK-47 wielding men also shot dead Inspector Jaco Botha, who had responded to the incident.

The only evidence the State had to link Moloi to the crime, was the thumb print. While about five other suspects were also nabbed following the incident, they were not charged as the police could not link them to the crimes.

A manager at the One Stop shop earlier told the court how a group of men ran into the shop, demanding money and cigarettes. They helped themselves to cigarettes behind the counter, which they bundled into bags. In their haste to get away, an unopened packet fell to the floor.

The police later lifted a “fresh” thumb print from the packet.

Moloi appeared to have had a stint of bad luck, because not only was the packet with his print left behind, but this was matched to him due to an error on the part of the police.

He had earlier been charged with two unrelated crimes, of which he was later acquitted. In terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, the police’s criminal record centre was supposed to erase the print from their database, but they didn’t. They easily matched the forgotten print with that found on the packet of cigarettes.

When asked how it ended up there, Moloi was at a loss for words. He told the court that while he could not admit it was his print, he also could not say it was not.

Botha was shot dead when he and his colleague, Inspector Pieter Otto, responded to the ATM bombings. Botha, who was driving the police vehicle, drove to the Spar, when he and Otto noticed men at various posts aiming their AK-47s at them.

The gang started shooting and in his court testimony Otto likened the scene to “a mini war”. Somehow only one bullet hit the vehicle and wounded Botha in the neck. He died on the scene.

More than 57 AK-47 cartridges were later found on the scene.

Judge Bam said the crimes were clearly committed by an organised gang of dangerous criminals. “I found that the whole operation was carefully planned by gangsters who were not only armed with explosives, but also with AK-47s. They carried this out with military precision.” He added that they clearly shot at the police with the aim to kill.

Botha’s family cried in court, hugging each other after sentencing.

Botha’s best friend, Karin Labuschagne, described him as a fantastic person and she said she hoped the his mother and other family would now get closure.

Pretoria News