From left, Jermaine Mitchell, Glynn Carelson, Wendell Petersen, Robin Taylor and Graham Kammies, charged with a 2015 triple murder pleaded not guilty to a string of charges in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - A suspected gang kingpin, along with four other men, appeared in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Monday in connection with a triple murder. 

There was heightened security and Bird Street was blocked off by police and metro police members, while the building was lined with members from the police's Tactical Response Team (TRT) for the appearance of alleged gang boss Wendell Petersen and his co-accused.

Members of the public were searched several times before being allowed to enter the court room. 

Petersen, Jermaine Mitchell, Glynn Carelson, Robin Taylor and Graham Kammies were all in court on Monday, but charges against Morne Nel for involvement in the murders have since been withdrawn, said State Advocate Mujaahid Sandan. 

The five remaining suspects face a string of charges which include murder, conspiracy to commit murder, performing an act contributing towards a pattern of criminal gang activity, and the unlawful possession of firearm and ammunition amongst other charges. 

The men all pleaded not guilty to the charges against them. 

According to the State, on 14 September 2015, three people were shot and killed in separate incidents in Gelvandale and Mount Road policing areas. 

The road outside the Port Elizabeth High Court was blocked off on Monday for the appearance of five suspects in a murder trial. Video: Raahil Sain/ANA

At about 12:00, Theodore Matthews was fatally wounded while seated in a taxi at the corners of Durban and Cottrell Roads in Korsten. Later, the same afternoon, Rajen Naidoo was gunned down at his work in Burt Drive in Newton Park. And at about 18:00, the same evening, Jermaine Essau was shot and killed while standing in his yard in Springbok Street in Gelvandale. 

According to the State, during the course of the day, the suspects were kept updated on the progress of the killings. 

Petersen has since requested to be moved from Kirkwood Prison to St Albans Prison. Petersen's lawyer Deon Erasmus has also brought an application to obtain documentation which enabled the State to intercept his client's phone calls. The State has opposed the application. 

The matter continues on Tuesday. 

African News Agency/ANA