The three accused (from left) Morapedi Rankali, Motlalentwe Qhautse and Thuso Ramolo in court. Picture: Soraya Crowie/ANA
Kimberley - A diamond ring valued at R1.5 million, stolen during a brutal attack on a prominent Kimberley businessman, Piet Els, was found on one of the suspects linked to the incident.

This was the testimony of Warrant Officer Patrick Dibebe during on Wednesday’s bail application of the three men linked to the attack on Els and his partner on his farm just outside Kimberley in January.

The three accused - Morapedi Rankali, Motlalentwe Qhautse and Thuso Ramolo - appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday on charges of housebreaking, robbery and rape.

Their arrests followed an incident which took place in the early morning hours of January 24, when Els and his partner were viciously attacked and tortured by four men who forced their way into the bedroom of Els’ farmhouse.

Read: Rape charge added in Piet Els farm attack case

It is alleged that the attackers took firearms, jewellery, cash and cellphones before fleeing the scene in the farmer’s white Mercedes-Benz, which was later found abandoned next to the R31 road to Barkly West.

Warrant Officer Dibebe testified on Wednesday that Rankali was found in possession of a ring valued at R1.5 million, while the footprints of Qhautse and Ramolo were also found at the scene of the crime.

“Follow-up information led the police to a house in Galeshewe where a suspect, who is still sought by police, was staying. Upon arrival at the house, Rankali and the other two suspects were at the premises. Rankali admitted that the suspect who we were looking for was his relative. A diamond ring valued at R1.5 million was found on him. We asked Rankali how he came into possession of the ring and he said he got it from his uncle. Rankali was then arrested,” said Dibebe.

The Warrant Officer added that they had discovered footprints at the scene which were later lifted and sent for forensic testing.

“While investigating the crime scene on the day of the incident, I noticed four footprints on the farm. Some of the footprints were lifted by the K9 experts. During the arrest of Rankali, the two other suspects were also present at the premises. We confiscated two pairs of takkies belonging to accused two and three (Qhautse and Ramolo) on that day.”

Dibebe said that the takkies were positively linked to the footprints found at the scene.

“I handed the takkies to a footprint expert to compare them with the footprints found at the scene. The results were positive. Qhautse and Ramolo were only arrested following a statement from the footprint expert that the footprints were the same as the prints on the takkies.”

Piet Els Picture: Supplied

Dibebe further stated that some of the items that were stolen during the incident on Els’ farm were also discovered in the possession of a woman believed to be the girlfriend of the suspect who is still on the run.

“On February 14, 2018, I received information that there was a woman at the residence of the suspect who is being sought by police. The woman was apparently told to collect the furniture of the wanted suspect. The landlord refused to release the furniture as the suspect still owed him rent. The woman was found in possession of Krugerrands and gold cufflinks. The items found on the woman were later identified by Els’ son as belonging to his father. The woman, who is also a Lesotho national, was arrested and charged with possession of suspected stolen property.”

Dibebe requested that the woman’s case be referred to the senior prosecutor in order for the cases to be joined together.

He said that the whereabouts of the other stolen items were still being investigated by police.

“There are two men’s wrist watches, valued at R100 000, and firearms that are still missing.”

Dibebe added that they were also still waiting for some exhibits in order for the investigation to be concluded.

“I could not obtain a statement from the victim as he is still in a critical condition in Mediclinic Gariep hospital.

“The other victim has since been released from hospital. She, however, indicated that she would not be able to conduct an identity parade due to the trauma she suffered during the incident.

“The photo album and results from the fingerprints taken from the vehicle of the victim are also still being awaited.

“A fourth suspect linked to the matter is also still at large and is being sought by police.”

Dibebe said that even though two of the accused were only linked to the crime by their shoe prints, he believed that the State had a strong case against all the accused.

He added that the fact that two of the accused were Lesotho nationals might also result in them fleeing the country.

“The accused should be denied bail due to the nature of the crime. Accused one is unemployed and does not have any property in the country which will force him to stay. He might flee back to Lesotho. Accused three is also a Lesotho national. If they are released on bail and they decide to flee to Lesotho, tracing them will be challenging.”

The legal representative of Rankali and Ramolo, Kea Lerebolo, argued that there was no concrete evidence linking the accused to the incident. “Rankali was arrested when the police came looking for another person, named Karabo.

“Karabo was present the first time the police went to the house. However, the police only returned after Karabo had left the country. That is when Rankali was arrested - after he indicated that the ring found on him belonged to Karabo,” said Leberolo.

She said that the accused had already spent a lengthy period in custody and there was no indication when the matter would be finalised.

“The victim is still in hospital and might be there for some time. There was also no identity parade held. Currently there is no certainty before court that the right suspects have been arrested,” Leberolo said.

Qhautse, who conducted his own defence, told the court that he had been assaulted by police and his belongings confiscated when he was arrested. He denied any involvement in the matter.

The case was postponed for judgment on bail.

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