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Hawks roped in to assist in Hillary Gardee kidnap, murder investigation

The three men accused of murdering Hillary Gardee in the dock during their bail application at the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court. From left, Mduduzi Gama, Philemon Lukhele and Sipho Mkhatshwa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

The three men accused of murdering Hillary Gardee in the dock during their bail application at the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court. From left, Mduduzi Gama, Philemon Lukhele and Sipho Mkhatshwa. Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Aug 1, 2022

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Pretoria - It is expected that representatives of the Gardee family and their legal team will soon meet the multidisciplinary law-enforcement team to pave the way further into the investigation of the kidnapping and murder of IT entrepreneur Hillary Gardee.

The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, last week issued an order that it must be prioritised, and the Hawks must assist the investigation.

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Judge Nicolene Janse van Niuwenhuizen ordered that a multidisciplinary team, comprising the police, Hawks and crime intelligence be appointed to investigate the matter and collect evidence.

This followed an urgent application by the Gardee family in a bid to force the police and Police Minister Bheki Cele to prioritise the matter.

Hillary Gardee. Picture: Supplied

The matter was heard in camera due to “sensitive information” in the court papers. This multi-disciplinary team has been directed to fully investigate, inspect, search and collect all evidence, and to keep the Gardee family fully informed of developments.

It was ordered that the family receive an update every two weeks.

EFF spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said the order arose from the failure of Cele and the National Police Commissioner, General Sehlahle Fannie Masemola, and their representatives, to carry out their duties effectively.

Thambo said the relief granted by the court came as a historic victory for citizens in the battle against gender-based violence and was a stark reminder of the constitutional obligation of the SAPS to serve citizens selflessly.

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The first meeting between the family’s representatives, advocate Gillie Benson and advocate Lawrence Mrwebi, with the multi-disciplinary team will be scheduled at the earliest convenience with the Hawks, Thambo said. The family thanked their legal team and the people of South Africa in the fight for justice against gender-based violence, which they said had become a national pandemic.

The order followed after the family felt the Hawks would be better placed to interview “persons of interest” on information handed over to police investigators.

Thambo earlier said the police had failed to arrest other individuals suspected to have been involved in the abduction of 28-year-old Hillary. “The application stems from numerous family efforts to assist the police, in vain, due to inexplicable reasons and dismal failures by the detective unit of the SAPS.

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“Now that the prosecution has announced additional charges of conspiracy to murder, the case assumes all the hallmarks of an organised crime for which investigations reside in the competency of the Hawks,” said Thambo.

He said the family was being kept in the dark about developments.

“The record of delays and incompetence exhibited by the detective unit, including elbowing out Crime Intelligence Services and keeping the family in the dark, is treasonous.

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“Accordingly, among the family’s requests from the court is an order compelling the transfer of the case docket to the Hawks.”

The family are of the opinion that the SAPS detective unit has chosen to drag its feet and that this delay has a potential risk of evidence destruction and defeating the ends of justice.

The SAPS opposed the urgent application, saying the Gardee family was updated very frequently regarding progress through “physical meetings and telephone calls”.

Hillary went missing in April, and her body was later discovered outside a plantation a mere 35 minutes away from her home in Mbombela.

Police have arrested three men. They are due back in court on August 8 for a bail application.

Pretoria News

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