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14 Jun 2005 17:45
Four white Waterkloof youths were found guilty in the Pretoria Regional Court on Tuesday of murdering a black man and assaulting another in December 2001, when they were 16.
Describing the crimes as “cruel and cowardly,” magistrate Len Kotze granted Christoff Becker (19), Frikkie du Preez, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt (all 18) R10Â 000 bail each pending sentencing.
Kotze said he did so with hesitation because “this was an inter-racial incident which had emotions running high in the local community and elsewhere”.
But he had to take into account that sentencing might be long delayed. The penalty had to be determined by the Pretoria High Court as the murder conviction carried a minimum life sentence.
As part of their bail conditions, the four were not allowed to visit any nightclub, hotel or “other places of entertainment”.
Lawyer Oeloff de Meyer said the defence would appeal the verdict after sentencing.
The State had asked for bail to be refused due to the gravity of the crimes.
Kotze found the four guilty of beating, kicking and stabbing an unidentified man in a park in Moreleta Park, Pretoria, in the early morning hours of December 2, 2001, and leaving him for dead.
He ruled that a body later discovered in the park was that of the same man, and found them guilty of murder.
Kotze convicted Du Preez of assaulting another man in Constantia Park earlier that night, and the other three of assaulting the same man with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The four denied that the Constantia Park assault ever happened.
They also denied murdering the second man, but admitted beating a man, whom they said they thought was a burglar, after he attacked them as they tried to apprehend him.
The defence claimed the body in the park was not that of the assault victim, as it had different injuries to those inflicted by the four.
Kotze accepted the evidence of three state witnesses, former friends of the four who were present during the assaults.
On their evidence, Du Preez had spotted a man sitting under an umbrella in Constantia Park as the group was returning from a nightclub.
He got out of the car, hit the man in the face with his fist, and later returned to the scene with the other three accused, who were travelling in a different car.
The man had run away, but was caught and assaulted again.
As they drove on, Becker phoned those in the other car to say he had spotted three “burglars” running across the road.
Becker and Van Schalkwyk, driving in one car, stopped at a park where they had
seen the men.
The others joined them later.
On the evidence, Becker and Van Schalkwyk were seen making “stabbing movements” towards a man in the park, whereafter the entire group set upon him “like a loose scrum on a rugby field”.
Du Preez kicked the man in the face and Tiedt hit him over the head with a hammer.
When three of the accused returned to the park later, searching for the hammer and knives they had discarded, the man pleaded for help, but was kicked again.
Kotze dismissed Becker’s evidence as lies, remarking on his “astounding arrogance”.
He described the four’s actions as so inherently dangerous “that even the most stupid man would foresee (the victim’s) death”.
“The conclusion can be made that they wanted to kill him.”
Kotze said the injuries on the unidentified body were consistent with the attack as described.
He also dismissed a contention that a slash to the man’s leg, which caused him to bleed to death, might have been caused by his getting caught on a palisade fence fleeing a burglary scene.
It was not feasible, the magistrate added, that the assault victim would have got up and left, and another injured man would have lain down to die in the same spot.
The four did not show much emotion as the verdict was handed down. Their parents declined to speak to the media. -Sapa
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