“There is nothing linking the accused to the crime. No firearm has been found by the police.”
A 48-YEAR-old Pretoria man was granted bail of R3 000 in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court after he was arrested following an incident on Wednesday last week during which two Land Cruisers were stolen from Sovereign Motors in Kimberley.
The accused, Edmund Bhima, was arrested by the Bloemfontein police on the night of the incident after he was allegedly found in possession of the stolen vehicle. The other suspect has not yet been arrested.
Bhima appeared in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court on Friday on charges of armed robbery and possession of a firearm.
The investigating officer testified in court that, according to the complainant, the incident happened at around 7.30pm on Wednesday, October 9.
“The complainant was on duty at the dealership at the time when he saw two unknown men, a tall man and a fat man, entering the small gate, which was unlocked. According to the complainant, he told them they were not allowed to enter. The fat man then took out a gun and pointed it in the direction of the complainant.”
The investigating officer (IO) stated that the tall man had then grabbed the complainant by his trousers and forced him to the back of the yard. “There they tied him up and made him lie on the ground. He then heard an engine start and the car drive off. After a while, it was silent and he got up. He tried to trigger the alarm but couldn’t because he was still tied up. He then went to the front of the premises where people passing by saw him and assisted him.”
The IO said the police went to the crime scene to investigate and it was decided to go out in various directions to see if the suspects could be found. He went on the N8 road to Bloemfontein.
According to the IO, they saw the vehicles about 80km before Bleomfontein and tried to stop them, but they were going very fast. He added that the police vehicle in which he was driving was not marked, but was fitted with blue lights, which were on, and there was a loudspeaker, which he used to order the occupants to stop. However, the vehicles just drove faster.
“We then radioed ahead and asked the police in Bloemfontein for assistance.”
He stated that by the time they arrived in Bloemfontein, the suspect had been arrested and the police had retrieved both vehicles. The other suspect, however, got away.
According to the IO there was also video footage, showing the two men entering the dealership twice on the day of the incident and talking to a salesperson.
“The keys of the vehicles were exchanged with dummy keys and the suspects had the original keys,” he added.
There was no video footage of the actual incident, however, as the video camera only worked inside the building and the one outside, where the vehicles were parked, was not working.
He added that the total value of the two vehicles was R968 000 and both were recovered.
The IO admitted that the firearm that was allegedly used at the crime scene still needed to be traced, as well as the second suspect.
Bhima’s legal representative, advocate Markus Mafaro, pointed out that his client stated that he was an innocent person, hired to transport a vehicle from point A to point B.
He added that no person would stop in the middle of the night on a dark section of road for an unmarked car, even though they were claiming to be police.
He also questioned why the State had not held an identity parade yet to allow the complainant to positively identify the accused. “The applicant should not be punished for the State failing to have a strong case.”
Mafaro also pointed out that according to the IO the Bloemfontein police had not handed over any exhibits taken from the stolen vehicles when the suspect was arrested. This includes the suspect’s phone, which is also missing.
“My client has never been arrested for a crime so how can the IO state that he might be a flight risk or he might interfere with evidence. The IO doesn’t even know where the evidence is, so how will my client know?”
He added that the accused’s cellphone, which was a crucial part of evidence, was also missing.
“My client has been detained for the purposes of investigation. The IO should have investigated the allegations first and then made an arrest. My client should have appeared in Bloemfontein on a charge of possession of a stolen vehicle and he should have been left there until there was enough evidence to arrest him on the additional charges of armed robbery and possession of a firearm.”
The magistrate pointed out that she had to agree that the evidence “baffled” her.
“How did the State manage to bring a charge of possession of a firearm when there is no firearm? Also, what happened to the items seized when the suspect was arrested? There is no register of what was found in the alleged stolen vehicle in the Free State.”
She added that there is no dispute that the accused was in the dealership on the day of the incident, so it would not be unusual if his fingerprints were found there.
“The complainant should have been given an opportunity to do an identity parade. Currently, however, there is nothing linking the accused to the crime. No firearm has been found by the police.”
She stated further that the address given by the accused had been verified by the police.
“In the interests of justice, I will release you on bail of R3 000.”
The accused was also asked to hand in his passport and to report to his nearest police station on Mondays and Fridays.
The case was postponed until November.