The policeman who arrested the two farmworkers accused of killing right-wing leader Eugene Terre’Blanche did not follow proper procedure, the High Court sitting in Ventersdorp heard on Thursday.
Arresting officer Sergeant Jack Ramonyane told the court he knew nothing about the Child Justice Act or how to deal with the younger of the accused, a minor.
He also failed to read the minor his rights.
The 16-year-old and farm worker Chris Mahlangu (28) are accused of beating and hacking the Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader to death in his farmhouse in April last year.
Ramonyane said he had presumed the minor was an adult and had treated him as such when arresting him.
The teenager was placed in the same holding cell as Mahlangu and other male adults.
“According to me, on that day he was an adult,” Ramonyane said.
Section 28.3 of the Child Justice Act requires police station commanders to keep a register of children they have in lockup.
The act came into effect a few days before Terre’Blanche’s murder on April 3 last year.
Ramonyane said he was not aware of a register, and had estimated the minor to be around 18 or 19-years-old. This was despite his initial statement to police that accused two looked “very young”.
Several contradictions in Ramonyane’s two police statements were outlined by the defence.
In the first statement, Ramonyane described the minor as being “very young”, but in his second statement he said he was a “young man”.
In the first statement, he said Mahlangu had made the phone call to the police, but in the second he said “they made the call”.
In the first statement, Ramonyane said Mahlangu assaulted Terre’Blanche, but in the second statement he said they killed him.
“There [are] at least three material differences in your statement. Is this also what [investigating officer] Captain [Tietsi] Mano told you to write?” asked the boy’s lawyer Norman Arendse.
Ramonyane replied: “Yes, that is so.”
Ramonyane has admitted to being influenced by Mano into changing his statement.
Arendse suggested that evidence in the bedroom where Terre’Blanche’s body was found had been tampered with.
Ramonyane and paramedic Robert van Heerden were first to arrive at the crime scene. The sergeant denied touching anything in the room, and said Van Heerden entered the farmhouse first.
He said Van Heerden was “plus minus three minutes inside the house” before he entered, and was in the room alone for about a minute.
Mahlangu claims he acted in self-defence. The minor has denied involvement in the crime.
Both have pleaded not guilty to murder, housebreaking, and attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.
The trial was postponed until Friday following the death of a family member of Zola Majavu, appearing for the minor. — Sapa