/ 18 April 2018

Alleged admission of guilt allowed in Karabo Mokoena case

Karabo Mokoena's death elicited a public outcry about violence against women in South Africa.
Karabo Mokoena's death elicited a public outcry about violence against women in South Africa.

Police testimony that alleges Sandile Mantsoe admitted to killing Karabo Mokoena will be admissible in his trial.

The third day of the trial for the murder of Mokoena saw the judge hold a trial within a trial over whether the court could hear evidence about an alleged admission made, but later withdrawn, by Mokoena’s former boyfriend Mantsoe that he killed Mokoena.

Mantsoe is accused of murdering Mokoena in April 2017. Her brutal death elicited a public outcry about violence against women in South Africa.

On Wednesday, law enforcement officials, Sergeant Matshidiso Maseko and Captain Bhekisisa Mhlongo, testified on behalf of the state.

Captain Maseko, a domestic violence co-ordinator and missing persons investigator, testified that on May 10 last year she received a visit from Mokoena’s mother, Keabetswe, who wanted to file a missing persons’ report for her daughter. Keabetswe said the last time she spoke to Karabo, she did not know her daughter’s whereabouts. She also gave Maseko the accused Sandile Mantsoe’s phone number.

When Maseko called Mantsoe, he said that “[Karabo] was at his apartment on April 27 and he accompanied her to a taxi.”

Later that day, at around 7pm, Maseko, along with Captain Mhlongo from the Sandton police station, Lolo and Karabo’s sister went to the Sandton Skye apartment building to meet with the manager. They then asked to see Sandile Mantsoe’s apartment. After knocking and realising that Mantsoe was not there, the group waited as the manager called Mantsoe.

“He said was he was in Lyndhurst and would be back at 9pm,” Maseko said.

As they waited, they watched security footage from April 27 and 28. On the tape, they saw Mokoena and Mantsoe leaving the building together. Maseko testified that on April 28 at around 2am, Mokoena and the accused arrived at the building and entered the elevator. Later that day, at around 10pm, Mantsoe was seen carrying a large dustbin up to his apartment and then carrying it back down. Mhlongo stated that it looked heavy.

After watching the video tapes, both the sergeant and captain testified that once the accused had arrived they walked up to his apartment. After investigating, they found that the carpet under a small rug in his bedroom was wet.

“When we removed [the rug] there were stains that looked like blood,” said Maseko.

When they asked why the carpet was wet, Mantsoe said that he was selling the apartment so he needed to clean it.

He was then arrested for kidnapping and taken to Sandton police station where Captain Mhlongo questioned him further.

When asked whether he knew where Mokoena was, Mantsoe denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. At this point, Captain Mhlongo questioned him about the security footage.

“That’s when he told me that he killed Karabo. And I asked him what he used to kill her and where he killed her. He said he killed her in Sandringham and burned her body.”

According to Mhlongo, Mantsoe also admitted to having disposed of her body in a dustbin. In Mhlongo’s testimony, whether or not Mantsoe burned the body before or after he placed Mokoena in the dustbin, remains unclear.

After Mantsoe gave his statement, the captain went to get more paper to continue to take down his statement. On his return, Mhlongo claimed Mantsoe denied ever having made the confession and refused to write it down.

Maseko corroborated her captain’s testimony saying that, while she was filing her arresting statement, Mhlongo called to inform her that the accused admitted to killing Mokoena.

Trial within a trial

Since there was no hard evidence of Mantsoe’s verbal confession to killing Karabo, the judge declared a trial within a trial, to determine “whether the admission was credible or not” and whether Mantsoe was properly read his rights.

The judge asked for clarity on whether Mhlongo asked the accused anything before reading the rights.

“I warned him of his rights before asking any questions. I told him about his right to keeping quiet and I also informed him that everything he said may be used against him in court [to which] he said ‘I understand’,” Mhlongo said.

After the captain testified in the trial within the trial, the accused took the stand. The accused claims that at the police station he remembered being “confused” and vulnerable, but went on to say that the captain tried to calm him.

“As we were in that room, he said I was a nice person. He said if I gave him something small, he can let me go” Mantsoe said.

“At first I was not sure what he was talking about as I had never been arrested before. I then asked what I could say that would let me go. He said that he would make sure that I couldn’t get in trouble.”

When asked by one of the state prosecutors, Mike Hlatshayo, if he had confessed to killing Mokoena to Captain Mhlongo, Mantsoe responded, “no I did not.” However, Mantsoe admitted to removing Mokoena’s body and that the officers found blood in his apartment.

The prosecutor continued to question Mantsoe, asking why Mhlongo would lie about the statement he claimed Mantsoe gave him. The prosecutor concluded that the admission complies with the reports.

However, the defense, Victor Simelane, believed that the admission should be disputed.

The judge concluded “the evidence from the admission is admittedly evidence”.

Captain Mhlongo will continue with his testimony after lunch.