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19 Oct 2011 19:23
More police bungling became clear in the Ventersdorp High Court on Wednesday in the trial of the pair accused in Eugene Terre’Blanche’s murder.
A teenager and Chris Mahlangu (28) face charges of housebreaking, robbery with aggravating circumstances and the killing of the right-wing leader Eugene Terre’Blanche on April 3 2010. They have pleaded not guilty.
The state last week presented a strong case with many witnesses testifying that the suspects handed themselves over to police and admitted to the crime, but this week the defence counsel has found many mistakes with the way police handled the case.
On Wednesday the defence cast doubt on forensic evidence that could possibly tie the teenager to the crime.
The only evidence that may link the teenager to the murder could be swabs of DNA taken from his hands and underneath his fingernails, as no blood was found on his boots.
The DNA was taken by warrant officer Bobby Sephiphi on the night of the killing.
However, Sephiphi said under cross-examination that he did not read the minor his rights or even know about the Child Justice Act, which governs the way a suspect under the age of 18 should be treated.
The failure to comply with the Act means the defence could move to have any evidence from the DNA swabs ruled as inadmissible, advocate Norman Arendse, acting for the teenager, told the Mail & Guardian.
A pair of underwear hanging at the foot of the bed on which Terre’Blanche’s mutilated body was lying was discussed at length in court on Wednesday afternoon.
The teenager’s lawyer Zola Majavu attacked Sephiphi for not bagging the “blue underpant” at the scene as evidence, even though he took photos of it.
When Majavu asked the police officer if it was possible the underwear belonged to the one of the assailants, he answered: “Maybe”. Sephiphi also said he did not take swabs of what looked like semen on Terre’Blanches genitals.
Majavu told the court it was possible it could be semen but if it was, did not belong to Terre’Blanche.
On Wednesday, Mahlangu’s lawyer Kgomotoso Tlouane SC said his client would later explain why Terre’Blanche had semen on his genitals.
Tlouane added that Mahlangu would testify that he had been beaten by Terre’Blanche in a separate incident before the murder.
When this allegedly happened, the suspect—who had worked for Terre’Blanche for five months—reported the matter to the Ventersdorp police, who did nothing.
“What he realised was that the police feared Eugene Terre’Blanche and no one wanted to face him,” he said.
The trial continues.
Read more from Katharine Child
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