Top Cape detectives to probe Judge's death

Published Jun 13, 2009


Two of the Western Cape's top detectives are heading the investigation into the mysterious death of Acting Cape High Court Judge Patrick Maqubela.

The probe has been described by police as "highly, highly sensitive".

Police initially insisted that Judge Maqubela had died of a heart attack and opened an inquest docket, but later changed it to a murder docket.

Now, a ring of steel has been thrown around the investigation, with a top police source telling the Saturday Star that the matter was extremely sensitive.

He was found dead in a flat in Bantry Bay, on Sunday.

Heading the investigation into his death is Reynold Talmakkies, who probed the massacre of nine men at the Sizzlers massage parlour in Sea Point in 2003.

Talmakkies was recently praised in police circles for arresting a suspect 24 hours after the murder of 36-year-old Charles Vergotine in Sea Point, in March this year.

He is being assisted by Jo Dryden, a senior police detective who was recently promoted to the rank of superintendent after nabbing Najwa Petersen as the orchestrator of the murder of her husband, Taliep Petersen.

The high-profile investigators were appointed to look into Judge Maqubela's murder just days after police had told the media that the judge had died of natural causes.

It is believed that he had been dead for three days.

He failed to report for court duty on the Friday before his body was found.

His body was found wrapped in a sheet with a bloodied pillow over his face.

There were no signs of forced entry.

Judge Maqubela, who lived in Joburg, was in Cape Town while he was acting on the Bench.

He had been on the Bench since last December and was supposed to remain there for another term.

The Saturday Star has learned that a woman, who identified herself only as Amanda and who did not leave her contact details, contacted the judge's secretary on Friday, June 5, to say that the judge could not go to work because he was in Groote Schuur Hospital.

Acting Judge President Jeanette Traverso confirmed the telephone call, but the hospital said it did not have any record of Judge Maqubela's admission.

The police initially believed that the circumstances in which he had been found suggested that a crime had not been committed.

Police interviewed Judge Maqubela's secretary on Monday afternoon. She was told not to speak to the media.

The judge's wife, Thandi Maqubela, arrived in Cape Town from Joburg shortly after 1pm on Monday and spent several hours with the police.

She later spoke to the Saturday Star and said that the police had thoroughly explained the circumstances surrounding her husband's death.

She said that she had been satisfied with the finding that her husband had died of natural causes and that she would not ask for a private autopsy to be conducted.

Maqubela said her husband suffered from hypertension and, as a result, bled openly.

"I think that was his body's way of relieving his blood pressure," she told the Saturday Star.

Maqubela added that she did not believe that anything sinister had happened because the security at the flat was very tight.

However, on Tuesday morning, police changed the inquest docket to a murder investigation, saying that the autopsy results were preliminary and that an exact cause of death could not be determined owing to the extent of the body's decomposition.

"A thorough investigation by Sea Point police revealed information and evidence which suggested that the angle of our investigations is directed to the possibility of a crime, and, therefore, the case docket has been changed to a murder investigation," said police spokesperson Andre Traut.

Traut told the Saturday Star on Friday that the second autopsy had not yet been conducted.

Judge Maqubela is to be buried in Qumbu, in the Eastern Cape, on Tuesday - Youth Day.

A separate memorial service is to be held for him in Joburg on Friday.

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