Durban - A Himeville policeman involved in the arrest of suspects accused of murdering Underberg farmer Dan Knight admitted to a “costly mistake” while testifying on Monday.
Captain Vincent Xaba confessed to Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Jerome Mnguni that he had not read one of the accused his constitutional rights before he conducted a pointing-out of a stolen vehicle.
This could render the pointing out inadmissible as evidence. “This is a costly mistake indeed,” the judge said.
Knight was bludgeoned to death with a hammer and other weapons at his home on Outlook Farm on October 17 last year.
He and his partner, Beth Bucher, were attacked by a gang of five men in balaclavas and dark clothes.
Tsepiso Ramonyane, 20, Bonginkosi Nyawose, 33, and Happy Gcina, 24, have pleaded not guilty to the murder and aggravated robbery.
Lawyers for Ramonyane and Nyawose submitted that their clients were assaulted by police who arrested them and claim they were made to sign written confessions and make pointings-out under duress.
A trial within a trial is now under way to determine whether the confessions and pointing-out can be admitted into evidence.
Xaba denied any assault on the accused. Nyawose has accused the officers of assaulting him and then punishing him by not giving him food for seven days.
Nyawose was allegedly also told that if he did not co-operate, his ankles would be tied and he would be thrown into a river near the Himeville police station. “I have no knowledge of this,” Xaba said.
He conceded that when police surrounded the homes of the accused, gunshots had been fired at the house to “scare” them.
Asked by the judge whether this was lawful, Xaba said he thought it was.
Another arresting officer, Constable Themba Ndlovu, testified on Monday that they had discovered items believed to be stolen from Outlook Farm at the homes of Nyawose and Ramonyane when they were arrested. A black plastic bag filled with firearms, including R5 rifles, was also found buried in the backyard at Ramonyane’s home.
Ndlovu testified that Nyawose had tried to escape custody by breaking the window of a police vehicle and tried to jump out. Police had stopped him.
Nyawose alleges the window had shattered when the police assaulted him.
Judge Mnguni said he found it strange that charges of attempting to escape lawful custody were not proffered against Nyawose, if he had tried to escape. Ndlovu could not explain why this was not done.