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PORT ELIZABETH - A distressed witness who absconded during the trial involving six men allegedly involved in a so-called 2016 revenge mission which left two people dead, another kidnapped and saw several homes go up in flames, was convicted and sentenced in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Thursday for failing to pitch for court proceedings. 

During an enquiry, Franklyn Matthys found himself on the wrong side of the criminal justice system when Judge Glen Goosen sentenced him to three months in prison, wholly suspended for a year, on condition he was not convicted of a similar offence during that time period.

The trial came to a halt on Wednesday after Matthys, who was in the NPA’s witness protection programme, left his accommodation and failed to pitch to testify at the trial.

A warrant of arrest was issued and police searched for Matthys, who could not be traced. 

Making an appearance on Thursday, Matthys said he feared for his life after another witness, who was also meant to testify in the case, was shot and killed in February. 

Matthys explained that it was during a consultation with the investigating officer that a call came through to the detective that a witness by the name of ‘Mandolene’ had been shot and killed. It was at this stage Matthys decided he no longer wanted to testify. 

However, Goosen said that the failure to appear when obliged to do so was a serious offence and undermined the fabric of the criminal justice system.

Goosen said that resources were spent on finding Matthys and payment to defence counsel funded through the public purse had to be considered. 

“It’s necessary for the community to know and understand that failure to appear when obliged to do so was held in a serous light,” said Goosen. 

Damian Kammies, Deilon Makoppa, Kurt Bosman, Christiano Witbooi, Ashton Calvert and Warren Steyn face 15 charges which include murder, attempted murder, arson, housebreaking with intent to do grievous bodily harm, assault to cause grievous bodily harm, kidnapping and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition. 

All six hail from the notorious gang-infested area of Schauderville in the city’s northern areas.

According to the State, the men were on a mission to hunt down Neville Bruintjies who had apparently disarmed two fellow Spotbouers gang members of a firearm.

During November 2016, the men allegedly broke into a house in Schauderville in pursuit of Bruintjies. When Bruintjies couldn’t be found, the men kidnapped Mohammed Abdullah. 

While continuing to search for Bruintjies, Abdullah was killed and his body later discovered in the Malabar vlak area.

The men allegedly returned to Bruintjies’s mother’s house and Abdullah’s house where they set the home alight.

According to the indictment, the fire spread to other homes in the area, causing extensive damage.

The alleged killers continued to search for Bruintjies at a house in Lawler Street in Schauderville. 

When they came into contact with Matthys, who could not assist with information, they allegedly kidnapped and assaulted him with a firearm. 

When Nigel Matthys could not assist with information on Bruintjies whereabouts, he was allegedly hit with a baseball bat. 

The State alleges that in the interim Matthys' cousin, Deon, was shot and killed in cold blood.

All the men have indicated that the defence would be that of an alibi. 

The trial was postponed to May 6 when Matthys is expected to give evidence. 

African News Agency (ANA)