Monday, February 20, 2012
Judge praises Cato Manor detectives
Judge praises Cato Manor detectives
February 20 2012 at 05:32pm
By BARBARA COLE |and SLINDILE MALULEKA
KZN crime unit disbanded: report
Detectives from the Organised Crime Unit at Cato Manor – recently disbanded after allegations that a “death squad” operated there – have come in for praise from a High Court judge.
While a top-level investigation is being carried out into the allegations, detectives who investigated a notorious cash-in-transit heist robbery and an associated murder back in 2006, are also in the spotlight. This time, it is for their professional work on the case involving the “KZN-26” gang, whose lengthy trial in the Pongola High Court is now coming to an end.
Five of the KZN-26 are from the Durban area, three from elsewhere in KZN and the others from Gauteng.
Judge Jan Combrick began his judgment last Monday and will resume it today.
”What makes this trial somewhat unique is the introduction of wide-ranging and detailed cellphone evidence… Suffice it to say…that 72 000 calls were analysed,” he said.
More than 100 witnesses were called, including Thembiso Sithole, a tactical support officer employed by Fidelity Cash Management Services (its cash vehicles were targeted).
Sithole, (who was later killed in an unrelated incident), became suspicious even before the robberies and the murder went down after seeing four vehicles travelling in convoy with groups of men inside in the early hours of October 2, 2006 – the day of the heist.
However, police failed to act, despite repeated requests.
Sithole even shadowed the cavalcade to Msingazi, a suburb of Richards Bay, where one accused, Mbuso Mncube, lived. But when he told the local police how many suspects there were there, they refused to go, saying that they were afraid.
The KZN-26 gang was in custody at Westville, but was later transferred to the Ebongweni maximum security prison at Kokstad for security reasons.
One accused, Lebohang Mothepu, died from natural causes while still at Westville Prison during an adjournment in the lengthy trial, which began a year after two Fidelity cash-in-transit vehicles, 30km apart on the N2 in Zululand, were ambushed, overturned and attacked with firearms.
One vehicle, a Toyota Hi-Ace panel van, which was near the Charters Creek turn-off, 20km north of Mtubatuba, was not armoured and was robbed of R1 118 413-00. In their haste, the gang left behind R350 000.
Other stolen money was found in the Msingazi house. More than R1 million was recovered, the investigating officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Eddy van Rensburg, said yesterday
They deliberately smashed into the corner of the vehicle, causing the driver to lose control and overturn.
The suspects got nothing from the second vehicle, a Toyota Dyna truck, on the N2 near the Penicuik turn-off near Kwambonambi, because it was armoured. They failed to get inside after ramming it with a speeding 7-series BMW and overturning it and then attempting to cut open the hinges.
A security guard, Thembinkosi Gumede, was later killed while the suspects were in a plantation road abandoning stolen vehicles that had been used in the Penicuik heist.
Twenty-four suspects, who were heading to Durban, were nabbed at the Mvoti Toll Plaza, south of Stanger, by police, led by Captain Bongonkosi Mncube of the Richards Bay Organised Crime Unit.
Fourteen occupants were ordered to get out one at a time with their hands raised, and after a stand-off lasting two to three minutes, they stepped out with their arms aloft. Ten other suspects were rounded up in two other vehicles and two others were arrested later.
The unsuccessful attempts by Sithole, detective Mncube and a Fidelity investigator, Kevin Govender, to get the police to respond to calls for help, prompted the judge to say: “The professionalism displayed at the scene of arrest is of the highest order.… What we find heartening…was the thoroughness and commendable competence with which the arrests, search and collection and recording of exhibits was carried out on the scene of arrest and, later, at the offices of the Organised Crime Unit at Cato Manor.” - Daily News