Baha'i News -- Fury at Whitaker killing probe 'botch-up'

Fury at Whitaker killing probe 'botch-up'

August 24 2002 at 08:10PM
Sunday Independent

By Samantha Smith and Amalie Niland

The bitter family of murder victim Martin Whitaker - who was alleged to have been killed by pardoned killer Dumisani Ncamazana until charges against him were withdrawn this week - has slammed the investigation into his death as a "complete botch-up".

Ncamazana, 27, is expected to be granted bail when he appears in court again on Friday on a charge of illegal possession of firearms.

The controversy over the investigation and the pardoning of Ncamaza by President Thabo Mbeki earlier this year has raised more questions than answers, with the Democratic Alliance (DA) calling it "bizarre and unprecedented".

'It's a joke and makes a complete mockery of our criminal justice system'
Whitaker, 35, was gunned down in front of his fiancee, Liesl de Villiers, and their one-year-old son, at his Sugar Shack delicatessen on May 27, two weeks after Ncamazana, a former Azanian People's Liberation Army commander, was pardoned by Mbeki and released from jail.

He had been serving a life term for multiple murders, and was pardoned even though the Truth and Reconciliation Commission refused to grant him amnesty.

The commission found that his attacks on Bahai Faith church members and a busload of Da Gama Textiles employees, his attempted murder of civilians in East London and his hand-grenade attack on the Highgate Hotel were not politically motivated or sanctioned by the Pan Africanist Congress.

Andrew Whitaker, Martin Whitaker's brother, described this week's events as "a circus". He said a top justice department official had admitted to him he was convinced that two of the suspects were guilty.

The sudden turn of events had left the police bemused and confused, a source said.

'It looks like a cover-up to me'
Unless new evidence is brought to light, Ncamazana is likely to be back on the streets by the end of the week.

His bloody criminal past cannot be taken into consideration in court because his record was expunged after his pardon in May.

While the DA has called for a full inquiry, East London detectives were due to meet their commissioner this weekend to review the case.

A police source said all the officers involved had been ordered not to speak to the media until after the meeting.

Mzwandile Ntsaluba, the director of public prosecutions, said outside court on Thursday that the murder-related charge against Ncamazana was withdrawn because ballistic tests done on a firearm found in Ncamazana's possession did not link the gun to the murder.

Andrew Whitaker, however, claimed the investigation was badly bungled, with fingerprint results delayed and DNA tests not being done.

He said: "When my brother's car was recovered, we were told that two or three sets of fingerprints other than Martin's were found in the car. Yet at court they said the fingerprint results weren't back yet.

"And when I spoke to the chief prosecutor about blood found in the car, which was supposed to have been tested, she said she didn't know anything about that."

He said police also botched the identity parade in which Sinikiwe Ncamazama, Ncamazana's younger brother, was allegedly pointed out by Whitaker's partner, De Villiers. This evidence was rejected by the court on Friday, enabling charges against him also to be dropped.

Andrew Whitaker said confusion arose because Sinikiwe Ncamazama had apparently changed numbers with another of the 21 men in the identify parade.

Police evidence was that De Villiers identified Ncamazama, but his defence had a video showing that she had pointed out number 11, who was a man known as "Dubai".

Andrew Whitaker said: "It's a joke and makes a complete mockery of our criminal justice system.

"There are so many unanswered questions. I hope I am wrong, but it looks like a cover-up to me."

Athol Trollip, the DA's provincial leader, said the investigation had been botched from start to finish. The identity parade had been totally spoiled, he added.

Any evidence the victims gave now in terms of identification would be inadmissible because of the high profile of the case, he said.

The DA would make an appeal to the department of justice to investigate every aspect of the case.

Trollip pointed to deficiencies in the investigation, saying the identity parade was held two months after the crime, and only as a result of pressure from the DA.

Trollip said other irregularities were that investigating officers were changed on the day of the first bail hearing; no forensic follow-up was done in regard to traces of blood found in the stolen vehicle; and more than two months went by before final statements were taken from witnesses.

Dumisani Ncamazana and Luntu Nguye, another co-accused, are still in custody on a charge of illegal possession of weapons, for which they will seek bail on Friday.

Trollip said while it was unlikely that Sinikiwe Ncamazana would be granted bail, considering the seriousness of the murder charges against him, Dumisani Ncamazana would in all likelihood walk free on Friday.

Dumisani Ncamazana's criminal record was expunged when he was pardoned, so it cannot be used when the court determines bail. Unless new evidence came to light before Friday he would probably be granted bail, Trollip said.

©Copyright 2002, The Sunday Independent (Africa)

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