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Bail application of teen accused of murder on hold

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Christopher Ortell is accused of murdering 19-year-old Riedwaan Mackay before allegedly burning and dumping his body.

Christopher Ortell. Picture: Soraya Crowie.

THE NORTHERN Cape teenager accused of killing a Kimberley resident and trying to burn the body will reapply for bail based on new evidence early next year.

The accused, Christopher Ortell, 19, has been in custody since his original bail application was denied in May this year, but could be released within the first week of 2018 after his second application was postponed yesterday in order for transcripts to be handed to the court.

The Upington High School learner is accused of murdering 19-year-old Riedwaan Mackay, before allegedly burning and dumping his body.

During his previous application in May, the state successfully opposed bail for what investigating officer, Captain Sylvester Magugu, described as a “brutal, barbaric and senseless murder”, that left both witnesses to the crime and relatives of the deceased living in fear of the accused.

In an affidavit in support of this original application, Ortell doubted whether he had been responsible for the death of Mackay, adding that while he had been urged to confess to the offence, he remained skeptical about whether he had delivered the fatal blow.

Justifying his opposition to Ortell being granted bail, Magugu said that he had been present when the doctor, who conducted the autopsy, stated that the death appeared to have been as a result of suffocation, caused by a sock found lodged in Mackay’s mouth.

Ortell said that he handed himself over after police were unable to trace him, denying suggestions that he fled from Kimberley to Upington in an effort to evade arrest.

However, prosecutor Elmari van der Merwe, was confident that the state had a strong enough case, based on evidence and witness testimony alone, to prove the guilt of the accused without relying on his confession.

She emphasised that it was not in the interest of justice to grant Ortell bail as there were claims of witnesses being intimidated while attempts to burn the body of the deceased indicated an attempt to destroy evidence.

The prosecutor further pointed out that had the deceased not suffocated, the blow to his head may very well have proven fatal, adding that Mackay had been left gagged and potentially bleeding to death while the accused took his VW Golf for a joyride.

Van der Merwe added that the charge carried a prescribed minimum sentence of 15 years and had caused shock and outrage among members of the community.

The accused was back before Magistrate Lunga Mbetane on December 12 to make the new application, but prosecution requested a postponement until yesterday in order for transcripts of earlier proceedings to be provided.

Ortell’s legal representative, Chwaro Kgotlagomang, yesterday accusing the state of deliberately delaying the matter by failing to officially apply for the documentation subsequent to their request last week. “Four months have lapsed since the initial application,” Kgotlagomang told the court yesterday.

“The state is trying to cover up the fact that suffocation has been ruled as the cause of death, but there is no way to link the accused to this. If they could, they would be in a position to charge him.

“The State is arguing that there are no transcripts and therefore, they can not proceed. It is clear that they had no intention of continuing with the matter today.”

He added that the clerk responsible for providing the relevant documents had informed him that it took roughly five days to compile but no application to do so had been made by prosecution.