Poppy's restaurant at Melville has reopened following an alleged drive-by shooting in the early hours of New Year's Day. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency(ANA)
Poppy's restaurant at Melville has reopened following an alleged drive-by shooting in the early hours of New Year's Day. Picture: Dimpho Maja/African News Agency(ANA)

WATCH: Facial reconstruction expert releases first image of Melville shooter

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published Feb 8, 2020

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Johannesburg - This is the face of the suspected Melville shooter minutes before he gunned down two people and injured six others outside Poppy’s restaurant on New Year’s Day.

He was sitting in the back seat of the black BMW X5 that was involved in the drive-by shooting that night.

His image just happened to be caught by a CCTV camera on 4th Avenue, at the corner of 7th Street, Melville.

And even though this picture was grainy and of poor quality, facial reconstruction specialist Jeanette Naude was able to tease out an image of the man, using Photoshop and a magnifying glass.

It is an image that catches him with his head possibly slightly leaning out of the vehicle.

In his mouth is a cigarette or a lollipop that suggests an air of confidence, of a man comfortable with the evil he was about to do. Perhaps he is confident because the shooting he was about to do requires a skill set only the few have.

On his head appears to be a hat with ear flaps and Naude believes he is light skinned and is either white or coloured.

As illustrated by facial reconstruction specialist Jeanette Naude

Naude said the hat could even be a bicycle helmet. He shares the car with two accomplices - a driver and a front passenger.

“The driver has a fuller face, he has got eyebrows that are quite prominent and it looked to me as if he was going forward. I don’t know why, perhaps he was also looking for something,” said Naude.

Naude stresses that there is an element of speculation in her work, but what she does draw on is decades of working in the SAPS, where her sketches and facial reconstructions helped put countless criminals behind bars.

In one of those cases, her facial reconstruction of a suspect was so good, that police caught the rapist when they randomly stopped a man in the street and brought him in for questioning due to his likeness to the identikit.

In court, the magistrate at first believed that Naude’s image of the rapist was actually a photograph of the man.

“When I saw his picture, at the back of the car, it looked like he didn’t belong there. The face was too big,” said Naude, who since started her company Crime Face.

“If you compare his head to the driver’s head on the right hand side, it looks too big. But I think his face is larger because he has it half way out the car.”

Just over a month has passed since the shooting that left two people dead, and six other injured.

The shooting happened, according to police, about 1am, when a gunman opened fire as the BMW slowly rolled past a number of revellers who had gathered outside Poppy’s restaurant.

A network of CCTV cameras captured not only the shooting but also the car, minutes before the incident took place. The BMW appeared to be scouting the area. This, if the time stamps on the CCTV footage is correct.

Police soon discovered that the car registration, that can be seen clearly in the CCTV, was fake and had been cloned, from another vehicle.

Initially, police appeared confident that they would make a quick arrest. However, later, sources close to the investigation admitted that they were struggling to find the culprits.

At 00:53am on the night, the BMW is caught on a CCTV camera as it drives up 7th Avenue, towards 3rd Street. The car would have passed Poppy’s on the opposite side of the street.

Four minutes later, a CCTV camera captures the car front-on on 4th Avenue. This is the image that allowed Naude a glimpse of the occupants.

If they turned right into 7th Avenue, this would have led the car past Poppy’s, leaving the man in the back seat with a clear shot of the patrons gathered outside the restaurant.

Naude’s husband Eduan is also an ex-policeman, but since leaving the SAPS he has worked as a bodyguard. Part of his training was learning to shoot out the window of the back seat of a vehicle.

“I was in Iraq for four or five years and that was part of our training and it’s extremely difficult,” he said. “These were not just luck shots.”

Eduan has watched the CCTV footage of the shooting and believes it was the man in the back seat that did the shooting.

“It seems as if the person from the back-seat was shooting because when he passes them (the patrons) they start dropping,” said Eduan. The shooter, he believes, could have been kneeling with the gun resting on the door of the car.

Police haven’t revealed what gun was used in the shooting but sources indicated the possibility that the shooting could be gang related.There were two other shootings that night that left revellers injured.

Two hours after the Melville shooting, a gunman or gunmen opened fire from the M1 highway on party goers who had gathered in Mary Fitzgerald Square - injuring 11 people.

In Parkhurst, a 24-year-old man was shot and wounded at Jolly Cool’s bar in Parkhurst. Police have said they don’t believe the Mary Fitzgerald and the Melville shootings are linked.

The SAPS are appealing for help from the public and they are offering a reward for information for both the shootings.

The man in the sketch is known by someone, so are his accomplices. If someone possibly recognises them they can notify the police by calling the Crime Stop number 0860010111 or by a tip-off on the MySAPS app.

Saturday Star

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