The Western Cape High Court has upheld its decision to find murder accused Jeremy Sias not guilty of the murder of slain showjumper Meghan Cremer amid an application for leave to appeal by the State.
The response given by Judge Elizabeth Baartman this week to questions raised by the State has found that witnesses who testified near the end of the trial remained credible despite claims by the State against them.
Baartman provided her response just two weeks after the State and defence teams argued for and against the application to appeal the sentence.
Earlier this year, Baartman found that the State had not proven beyond reasonable doubt that Sias had murdered Cremer after a lengthy trial.
Sias went on trial for the 2019 murder after the state alleged that he had attacked and strangled her to death after stealing various valuables including her laptop, handbag, bank cards and her Toyota Auris.
In his defence, Sias claimed to have found her car abandoned near the farm and claimed he went on a joyride with his friends but admitted to dumping Cremer’s body after allegedly finding it in the boot.
Baartman found Sias not guilty of murder saying the State had failed to prove its case after an explosive testimony by the wife of the farm owner, Linda Mohr, who outed Meghan as a druggie and presented WhatsApp messages as proof. She further told the court that three “Malay” men came to the farm to watch Meghan as she took lessons, seemingly to intimidate her. Sias was eventually convicted of two counts of theft and defeating the ends of justice after admitting to dumping her body.
He was given an eight-year sentence which was suspended for four years.
During the arguments, State advocate, Susan Galloway, told the court that an error was made in attaching value to the testimony of Mohr.
She said Mohr sat with the information for several years and had not come forward.
Galloway explained that during the trial Mohr stated that nobody was interested in her version, yet evidence showed that she had in fact given police a statement at the time.
“It is only her evidence. It is the same witness who denies categorically that ‘nobody is interested in what I am saying’.
She deposed her statement.
“She has this burning information about the deceased which points to her possibly being involved in drugs and nobody was interested in her information. With respect, how does Ms Mohr’s evidence gel with what James [her son] said.”
Defence advocate, Bash Sibda, objected to the application saying the State “wanted a second bite of the cherry”.
He claimed there was backlash after the State failed to secure a conviction and lashed out at the State claiming they approached the trial with a strategy to pin the murder on Sias.
Sibda highlighted an issue raised earlier in the trial where an aspect of the admissions were changed to include the location of the murder namely the cottage.
He says questions around the footage early on in the trial showed that Meghan’s car was captured on CCTV footage leaving the farm but Mohr had identified the driver of the vehicle to be Meghan and not “the killer”.
Sibda says the State prosecutor had every opportunity to recall witnesses after Mohr testified but had failed to do so.
In her judgement, Baartman, highlights Mohr’s testimony and that of her son James and says the State had an opportunity to recall witnesses to rebut the evidence given but had opted not to do so and the testimonies remained unchallenged.
This included claims that in the weeks leading up to her death Meghan had allegedly used cocaine and was seen with large amounts of money. Mohr told the court that she had bought a horse for R75 000 and paid with cash.
She said the mom and son duo were found to be credible and that the WhatsApp messages between James and Cremer regarding the use of cocaine “speak for themselves” and the information provided that there was a possibility that someone else killed Cremer.
“The latter’s evidence led me to find that the inference that the accused killed the deceased was not the only reasonable inference to be drawn from all the evidence presented. I was persuaded that the two witnesses neither attempted to paint the deceased in a bad light nor the accused.”