Police murder trial: 189 metal pellets killed Nathaniel ‘Lokkies’ Julies

Nathaniel ‘Lokkies’ Julies was killed by banned “birdshot” ammunition that launches 280 metal pellets into a target. 

Forensics expert and state witness Lieutenant Colonel Willem Visser told the high court sitting in Palm Ridge on Wednesday that 65% of the pellets in the cartridge hit the 16-year -old when he was gunned down in Eldorado Park Johannesburg, allegedly by the junior, in- training constable, Caylene Whiteboy. 

Three police officers are facing charges relating to Julies’ murder, which took place on 26 August last year. 

Visser told the court that the use of the lethal ammunition had been discontinued by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in 2014. 

“The moment the pellets leave the barrel, the pellets start to spread rapidly until they hit the intended target,” Visser said, as Julies’ mother, Bridgette Harris, sobbed in the gallery. 

He described how Julies’ wound was about 39cm in diameter.  

An unarmed Julies had just bought a pack of his favourite biscuits when he was confronted by police just a few metres from his home. Visser said the ammunition in question discharges at a “very fast” speed of about 360m a second. 

He illustrated the size of the teenager’s wound using a metal ring. 

Visser said Julies’ wounds indicated that he was shot from a distance of nine to 11 metres.  This indicates that even if the shotgun was loaded with rubber bullets, the distance should have been further to justify firing.  

His testimony followed that of Captain Susan Berrange, who had trained Whiteboy, accused number one, in the use of firearms. Whiteboy was a fresh graduate who had been on practical training at the Eldorado Park police station less than a year before the tragedy.

Berrange told the court that shotguns were reserved for crowd control and that targets had to be shot from at least 20m or more, even when using rubber bullets. She said Whiteboy should have checked the gun before firing it. 

“She was not supposed to shoot at the person, from what I taught her,” said Berrange. 

The court heard that Whiteboy and other trainees at the police college used a 10m distance at the shooting range “for accuracy”, and that the 20m rule was not outlined in the training manual. 

Berrange said public order police were supposed to aim at the ground to break the impact of a rubber bullet before it hits a target. She said that even a rubber bullet was lethal at a 10m distance. 

Previous eyewitnesses testified how accused two, Simon Ndyalvane, who was the head of public order policing at the station, pulled Julies from underneath a broken-down truck after he was shot and placed him in the back of a police van before taking him to Baragwanath hospital in Soweto. 

Ndyalvane flouted protocol when he booked out a shotgun without ammunition on the day of the killing. 

Experts on the SAPS’s standing orders and forensics have testified that several protocols were violated if the state and witness versions of events are correct. 

Junior Constable Mandla Sithole, who was one of four officers in the police vehicle, told the court last week that Whiteboy had no reason to shoot Julies. 

The officers claimed they were following a lead on stolen car parts at a block of flats where Julies was killed. Their initial report alleged that a shootout with suspects led to Julies’ death. 

Witnesses have testified that it was quiet on the street before a single shot was heard and Julies fell to the ground.

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Tunicia Phillips
Tunicia Phillips is an investigative, award-winning journalist who has worked in broadcast for 10 years. Her beats span across crime, court politics, mining energy and social justice. She has recently returned to print at the M&G working under the Adamela Trust to specialise in climate change and environmental reporting.

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