Durban - A rogue policeman who shot and killed an alleged drug dealer from Nigeria during a “shakedown” mission at the behest of a rival dealer was convicted of murder at the Durban High Court on Friday.
SAPS Constable Austin Reynold, 24, who was also found guilty of robbing the drug dealer and two other people in January last year, will be sentenced on Monday.
Presiding Judge Shyam Gyanda described Reynold as a “self-confessed liar” who had “intentionally shot and killed” the dealer who Reynold referred to as “Frank”.
Judge Gyanda refuted Reynold’s attempt to pin the blame on Brindley Barlow, a long-time family friend who was present but did not participate in the crimes.
He described Barlow’s testimony as “truthful”, gave him indemnity from prosecution and asked the 21-year-old to now “stay on the right side of the track”.
Proceedings this week drew the attention of representatives from the Nigerian Consulate General’s office and media from that country.
Reynold testified this week and said he reconnected with Barlow in November 2017 after being apart for a few years. He said they got to Frank’s house with the assistance of another alleged drug dealer known as Romeo also from Nigeria, also a friend of Barlow. Barlow had allegedly wanted a fix of cocaine. Reynold, Barlow, Romeo and another unknown Nigerian national consumed alcohol outside a nightclub in the CBD before driving to Umbilo.
The two Nigerians were dropped off near Frank’s house. Once inside, Reynold and Barlow consumed cocaine in a back room. They needed to pay Frank and therefore visited a nearby garage.
When they returned, only Barlow went inside. Reynold said he heard Barlow call out for help, and he ran into a room and noticed Frank and another Nigerian male had him pinned.
He drew his service firearm to quell the situation but that’s when the other Nigerian ran out of the room while Frank halted. Reynold tucked his firearm away, and cuffed Frank, but the burly Nigerian resisted.
While he wrestled with Frank, Reynold said Barlow grabbed his firearm and struck the dealer on his head with the cocked weapon. That triggered the shot that penetrated the back of Frank’s head and exited through his face. He claimed that Barlow then pointed the gun at him, demanded that he gather the spent cartridge, bullets and the magazine that had fallen and was damaged.
As they exited the house, Reynold said Barlow robbed a watchman of his cellphone and cash and robbed another female who was entering the yard, also at gunpoint.
Metro police stopped the two, a short distance from the house and they were searched. Reynold said they were let off by a Captain Govender after he told him that he was a policeman who had just come off duty. Therefore, he possessed his gun and other police equipment.
They drank more alcohol in Newlands East afterwards, before showering at Reynold’s home, the next morning. Thereafter, they went to a car wash and ate a meal together.
Reynold said Barlow agreed to being handed over to police on condition he replaced missing bullets from his gun, which they did.
While driving near the Pavilion Shopping Centre, they were arrested by police and Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigators.
State prosecutor Krishen Shah asked Reynold why he did not give his version to the officers, he replied: “Ipid has a stigma among policemen and I was not comfortable sharing anything with them.”
Reynold shot down every suggestion that Barlow’s account of events was the truth, which included him being in possession of the gun, robbing Frank and others and being acquainted with Romeo, who asked him to shakedown his rival. Uncanny for Shah was Reynold not telling the metro police about Barlow’s actions when they were stopped, nor did he alert officers from Pinetown where he was stationed.
Judge Gyanda said Reynold was a “self-confessed liar” because he admitted to deliberately lying to Captain Govender and should have “opened-up” about what Barlow had allegedly done.
“There was no threat from Barlow and according to Reynold’s version, Barlow would have had bullets and primer residue on him. Surely, being around other policemen counted in Reynold’s favour.”
Judge Gyanda said having handcuffed Frank, as Barlow pointed out, why wasn’t the gun put on safety mode?
“Instead, Reynold recklessly struck the deceased with the gun. Therefore he intentionally shot and killed him.
Bello Sambo, of the Nigerian consulate, said they had been keenly following the matter and were satisfied that the rule of law is being upheld in South Africa.
“Reynold should have charged him (Frank), but a policeman should not take the law into his own hands,” said Sambo.