Court rejects Waterkloof appeal

The so-called Waterkloof Four will bring an application for leave to appeal a judgement by the Pretoria High Court after the court on Wednesday rejected an appeal to overturn their murder conviction and sentence.

Pretoria High Court judges Willie Seriti and Piet Ebersohn turned down an appeal by Christoff Becker, Frikkie du Preez, Gert van Schalkwyk and Reinach Tiedt to overturn their conviction for the 2001 murder of an unidentified man and the assault of another.

“My view is that the trial court properly evaluated the evidence before it and correctly convicted the appellants as it did,” Seriti said in reading out his and Ebersohn’s judgement.

“After reading the judgement of the trial court relating to sentence, I’m unable to find any reason for interfering with the sentence imposed by the trial court,” he added.

The Pretoria Regional Court in 2005 found that the four were guilty of murder and assault and sentenced them to an effective 12-years’ imprisonment.

Seven years ago, they assaulted an unknown man in Constantia Park, Pretoria, then shortly after kicked, punched and stabbed to death a second man in Moreleta Park. They were returning from a nightclub in Hatfield.

Their counsel, advocate JP Nel, told the high court that they would bring an application for leave to appeal.

Seriti and Ebersohn gave the four’s counsel seven days to bring “a substantive” application for leave to appeal and extended the bail of the four—who were not in court—pending the outcome of the application.

The two judges, however, tightened the bail conditions, ruling that the four had to report to the investigating officer every Monday and Friday, instead of once a month, and that they had to get permission to leave the Pretoria area.

They also had to hand in all travel documentation.

The court said it rejected arguments on the appeal against the assault charge because the contradiction argued by their lawyers did not “warrant either in isolation or cumulatively a credibility finding in favour of the appellants”.

Their counsel argued that the assault never took place.

Counsel said cellphone records showed that from the time before the first assault took place to the time the group arrived at the place where the man was murdered, only 16 minutes had passed.

“The state witnesses testified in detail how this offence was committed and there is no basis on which the trial court could have rejected their versions.

“On the other hand, only the first appellant [Becker] testified and the other appellants did not testify despite the fact that there was direct evidence that implicated them in the offence in question,” Seriti said.

On the murder charge he said the four’s argument—that the body of the man found in the park two days after the assault was not that of the man they assaulted—could not be sustained.

The judges also found that the four definitely had intended to kill the man they assaulted.

“When one takes into account the weapons that the appellants used, and the fact that they failed to get him to hospital despite that fact that he was injured, and he requested them to assist him, they had intention to murder him,” Seriti said.—Sapa

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