Johannesburg - Not guilty; this was the plea which Sandile Mantsoe entered into on Monday for the murder of Karabo Mokoena and shocked the court by saying the deceased had committed suicide.
Dressed in a suave golden-brown chequered suit with a silk scarf as a tie, Mantsoe startled the High Court in Joburg, saying he had not grievously assault the 22-year-old Mokoena, kill her and then brutally dispose of her body by burning and ditching it in a Sandton veld.
Instead, the accused, through his lawyer, said he will prove that Mokoena had committed suicide.
Mantsoe is facing three charges; assault with the intention to do grievous body harm, murder and defeating the ends of justice.
In April last year, Mokoena made headlines after a frantic, social-media led search for her was launched after she had disappeared.
The State said in court on Monday that Mantsoe was the last person to have seen Mokoena at his Sandton apartment, where he assaulted her, killed her and ditched her body.
The State called its first witness, Stephanie Leong, who said she had been Mokoena's friend since December 2013.
Leong told the court of an incident the, day before Mokoena's birthday in March last year, where the accused allegedly assualted the deceased on their way back from a drinking establishment in Soweto.
When the three of them arrived back at Manstoe's Sandton home, the accused and Mokoena allegedly got involved in a heated and physical altercation.
"In the (basement) parking lot, the accused and Karabo started arguing. At one point, the accused pushed Karabo who fell to the ground on the concrete. The accused then fell on Karabo," Leong said, to loud gasps from the gallery.