Set me free, pleads gangster killer

By Time of article published May 9, 2002

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By Estelle Ellis

Still at liberty almost seven years after being sentenced to 15 years' jail for killing four gangsters following the mugging of his wife, former Delft, Cape Town resident Harry Joshua on Thursday starts his last fight to stay out of prison.

His court file bulges with letters written by family and friends supporting his action, and a petition with 800 signatures asking the court not to send him to jail.

In 1995, Joshua killed four gangsters, two of them youths, after his wife was held up at knifepoint and his wages were stolen.

When the police had still not arrived four hours after the attack, he set out to make a citizen's arrest. By the end of the evening four gangsters and a dog were dead and other people were injured.

His advocate, William King, has made an impassioned plea to the Supreme Court of Appeal not to underestimate the dangers of the gangs in the Delft area.

He said Joshua believed the Hard Livings gang, to whom the four dead men belonged, were a violent gang, who "operated like a pack of dogs". He argued that gangsters had conducted a reign of terror in the Delft area.

"Harry Joshua is a simple, good human being. In trying circumstances, he achieved his ambition of owning a house and being a father to his family, only to see criminals ruining such a life," King said.

Should this attempt fail, Joshua will go to prison.

Mr Justice Les Rose-Innes, who has since retired, sentenced him in October 1995 to 15 years on four charges of murder and two of attempted murder. He was acquitted on a fifth charge of murder, with the court ruling that he acted in self-defence.

In King's written argument to the Supreme Court of Appeal, he said: "(The fact that) during both incidents gangsters were involved who probably, as they were associated with a violent gang, were violent people themselves, cannot be ignored ..."

In May 1994, Joshua, then the supervisor at a block of flats in Sea Point, lived with his wife and two children aged eight and 12, in Welgelegen Avenue, Delft.

On May 23, two youths attacked his wife, Desmain, near the neighbourhood cafe, robbing her of his weekly wages at knifepoint. His children saw the incident.

Desmain Joshua laid a charge at the Delft police station, but four hours later, after Joshua had returned home, the police had still not arrived at their house to investigate the charges.

Joshua told the court when he set out that night with his shotgun, his intention was to make a citizen's arrest. He found five youths sitting on a sports field opposite his home, drinking beer. Two matched his wife's description of the robbers.

He asked the men for the purse. They said they did not know anything about it.

One of them, later identified as Marlin Mohammed, 17, shouted "up", which Joshua recognised as gang language for "attack". Mohammed tried to hit him with a bottle.

Joshua opened fire, killing Mohammed, 17, Fabian Rossouw, 17, and Mervin du Plessis, 17, and wounding Ivan Nortje, 14.

Joshua was acquitted of murdering Mohammed when the court found that he had acted in self-defence.

Joshua said that the youths had all charged at him, but medical evidence was that both Rossouw and Du Plessis were shot from behind or from the side.

One of the teenagers ran to a house across the street which Joshua believed to be a hide-out for members of the Hard Livings.

He followed, but when he asked whether the youth was hiding in the house, one of the residents set his dog on Joshua. Joshua shot the dog and also killed the owner of the house, Abduragman Hassan.

He also shot Johannes Jacobs, killing him as well, and wounded Moses Gouws.

Joshua then went to his brother's house and reported to the police what he had done. He was arrested two days later.

After he was sentenced in October 1995, he was released on R3 000 bail pending an appeal against conviction and sentence to the Supreme Court of Appeal.

But nothing was done about the case until last January, when the Cape Argus reported on the delay.

In his written argument to the Supreme Court of Appeal, senior State advocate Chris Celliers argued that Joshua had been correctly convicted. Joshua could not claim he had shot Rossouw and Du Plessis in self-defence. The same held true for the murders at Hassan's house.

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