Could a single thumb print on a packet of cigarettes prove that a Soweto man was part of an ATM gang which killed a cop? Stock picture: supplied

Pretoria - Could a single thumbprint on a packet of unopened cigarettes prove that a Soweto man was part of an AK-47-wielding gang, which blew up two ATMs and killed a policeman?

This question is due to be answered on Friday when Pretoria High Court Judge Bert Bam will deliver his verdict in the trial of Sibusiso Moloi, who is facing 10 charges following the daring ATM blasts in the early hours of June 18, 2008, which rocked the quiet suburb of Kilner Park in Pretoria.

About 50 AK-47 cartridges were found on the scene and one of the policemen who was with Inspector Jaco Botha when he was killed, testified that it was like a “mini-war” had broken out. Yet only one bullet had hit the police vehicle in which the police officers were travelling. It hit the bonnet and ricocheted through the front window, hitting Botha in the throat. He died on the scene.

Moloi denies being at the scene, saying he was fast asleep at in the home of a friend after he was involved in a car accident the previous day. He testified how he was treated for cuts to his face that afternoon and that his ankle was so painful, that he could hardly walk.

His friend collaborated this version and said the accused was asleep next to him in bed in Joburg.

Yet, one thumbprint – said by the defence to have been illegally obtained by the police – is said by the State to link Moloi to the scene. None of the witnesses could identify the accused.

Moloi cannot explain how his print came to be on an unopened packet of 10 Camel Light cigarettes found on the floor of the Quick Shop at the Engen Garage next to the ATM machines. This shop was robbed by the gang – among others of cigarettes. The robbers packed the cigarettes into a box, but in their haste to get away, dropped some.

These were found on the floor, in front of the shop counter. A fingerprint expert lifted a lone thumbprint from one of these packets, and matched it to the print of Moloi.

Moloi said he couldn’t admit it was his, but he couldn’t deny it either, as the cop who lifted it was said to be an expert in this field.

The defence, however, is disputing the admissibility of the manner in which the original set of prints of the accused – used to compare with the print lifted – was obtained.

It was on the police’s criminal record system, although technically it should have been deleted.

This was because the prints were taken regarding two previous cases concerning Moloi and which he had either been acquitted of or had been withdrawn against him. When cases are finalised, prints are supposed to be wiped from the system, the court was told.

State advocate N Maphalala, in asking for Moloi’s conviction, said if it wasn’t for those prints, Moloi would have never been arrested. She questioned whether accused persons should escape the law because of technicalities. She told the judge the print was found on the scene of the crime and that it was, according to the expert, fairly fresh.

Defence lawyer Pierre Springveldt asked the court to believe Moloi’s alibi that he was in bed during the time of the crime as he had been injured in a car accident. - Pretoria News