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10 Nov 2003 15:22
Johannesburg socialite Hazel Crane, shot dead on Monday while on her way to the Johannesburg High Court to give testimony against an alleged South Africa-Israeli mafia member, apparently said only last week she feared for her life.
This was at the jurisdiction hearing of Lior Saat (33), a diamond dealer accused of battering to death Crane’s estranged husband—fellow diamond dealer and alleged mafia godfather Shai Avissar—in Sunninghill, Johannesburg.
Avissar was last seen alive at a fast-food outlet in Norwood in October 1999. In January 2000 his battered, decomposing body was found by police in a shallow grave on a smallholding in Erasmia, Pretoria.
Crane, a close friend of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela who shot to prominence in the mid-1990s after she bought Madikizela-Mandela a luxurious Cape Town house, had apparently faced numerous attempts on her life following her husband’s death.
In the first instance, Saat himself is alleged to have held a gun to Crane’s head—for which he is currently facing intimidation charges.
In the second instance, Crane was left shaken after a shooting incident in Oaklands, Johannesburg, in May this year in which a man in the back seat of an Audi aimed a firearm at Crane and three others as they ducked for cover.
One person was hit.
Ironically, this was the man Crane had hired to discuss security arrangements for herself.
The gunmen meanwhile sped away after the incident but apparently hit a dead end, which forced them to turn around and drive past the scene of the shooting.
Media reports at the time quoted Crane as saying she felt she “had looked death in the eye”—unnerving words in the light of her murder on Monday.
Crane was driving with her friend to court. She was standing stationary on the corner of First Street and Atholl Oaklands Drive when a man appeared apparently from behind a bin and fired six shots at her through the passenger window.
Crane’s friend was shot in the hand. Her other more prominent friend, Madikizela-Mandela, often seen at the Johannesburg High Court during the Saat proceedings lending moral support to Crane, was not with Crane at the time of the attack.
Saat, whose court proceedings went ahead on Monday as scheduled despite the absence of the key witness, is currently facing 13 charges, including murder, intimidation, attempted murder, kidnapping, and illegal possession of teargas and a firearm.
An Israeli national with permanent residence in South Africa, Saat is challenging the jurisdiction of the South African courts to try him. He claims he was captured at the border with Mozambique and brought to South Africa illegally to face trial.
On June 14 2001, Saat was himself wounded in a drive-by shooting while being transported to the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court from the old Brixton police cells. Another prisoner was shot dead and Saat was wounded in the buttocks.—Sapa
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