Former police Constable Walter Francis, 29, Enzorich Kroates, 22 and Clement Kogana, 29. Picture: Raahil Sain/African News Agency (ANA)

Port Elizabeth - A former police constable convicted of culpable homicide after a murder in which his official police firearm was used, contradicted himself on the stand, the Port Elizabeth High Court found on Wednesday.

Walter Francis was convicted on a charge of culpable homicide but acquitted of a murder charge.

On October 25, 2014, Constable Walter Francis, 29, Enzorich Kroates, 22, and Clement Kogana, 29, were at the home of Shane Potberg, 34, when a shooting incident occurred. 

Following the shooting incident, Francis gave his official police firearm and several rounds of ammunition to Potberg, a known gangster in the city’s northern areas. He claimed that it was for safekeeping. 

At the time of the crime, Francis was stationed at Humewood police station. 

The next day, the State alleged that Potberg, Kroates, Kogana and another person drove to Bethelsdorp to "take out" Denton Rademeyer. 

Judge Jannie Eksteen found that Francis knew at all times that Potberg was affiliated to the Spotbouers Gang and further found that the former cop gave contradictory evidence at the trial.

Francis had told State Prosecutor Jason Thysse during the trial that he did not know that Potberg was affiliated to gangs, however in his plea explanation he stated that he was aware that Potberg was friends with gangsters. 

Francis also testified that he knew that gangsters would hang out at Potberg's house and because of this the court found that Francis should have been aware of the nature of gang warfare in the area. 

Judge Eksteen found that Francis would have been keenly aware that there was a possibility of the firearm being used.

By handing his official firearm over, the court found that Francis negligently caused the death of Rademeyer. 

Eksteen said that a reasonable man would have foreseen that Potberg would have used the gun or handed the firearm over to other gang members in order to avenge the shooting that had taken place at Potberg’s home the previous day. 

The court further set out several ways in which Francis could have avoided the crime - he could have handed over the firearm to his father who lived a few minutes away from where Potberg lived or he could have handed the gun over to two commissioned officers who were at the scene of the shooting at Potberg's house, but Francis chose not to.

Instead, Francis went home that night and claimed that after taking people to hospital he had "forgotten" to collect the weapon from Potberg's house.

A section 204 witness, Alex Ferreira, who apparently drove the vehicle for Rademeyer's murder, was meant to testify in the case but was shot and killed last year. Ferreira's statement was ruled inadmissible at the trial. Francis was subsequently also charged with Ferreira's murder in a separate case. 

The former police officer has admitted to giving his service pistol and a large amount of ammunition to Potberg but claimed that he had nothing to do with the killing.

Potberg was also charged in the case but was shot and killed when gunmen fired into his Dolph Road house in Bethelsdorp in February 2016.

Francis’s co-accused Kroates and Kogana were earlier both found not guilty on charges of murder and unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition. 

The case was postponed until October 9 for pre-sentencing and Francis's bail was extended. 

African News Agency (ANA)