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Hawks suspect gets bail

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The accused apparently admitted to the investigating officer that she had been involved in the incident.

Maria Tlaliane. Picture: Sorya Crowie

A sex-worker, who claimed she came to Kimberley on the request of a client, was granted bail of R5 000 in the Kimberley Magistrate’s Court after she was arrested following a break-in at the Hawks’ offices in July 2016.

Uncut diamonds, valued at more than R600, a cash sum of nearly R140 000, as well as an additional, undisclosed amount of money together with forensic cases, are believed to have been stolen during the break-in.

The accused, Maria Tlailane, 31, was arrested earlier this month in Hammanskraal after she apparently admitted to the investigating officer that she had been involved in the incident.

Testifying in yesterday’s bail application, the investigating officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dolf Louwrens called for bail to be denied to Tlailane, pointing out that there had been some difficulty in tracing and arresting the suspect.

Louwrens told the court yesterday that Tlailane had been apprehended in Hammanskraal, shortly before 4am on December 7, when she had admitted to the arresting officer that she had been involved in the incident.

According to Louwrens, although Tlailane had initially denied that she was the person they were looking for, she eventually conceded that she was, in fact, the accused after Louwrens presented her with pictures of herself that he had retrieved from her Whatsapp account.

While the IO admitted that he had only been able to follow some of Tlailane’s statement on the night of her arrest, as this had been given to the arresting officer in an African language, he said that there were some references he was able to pick up from the conversation.

“She mentioned something about prostitution since 2012 and also referred to a case in KwaZulu-Natal, in which she was also involved, where a security guard was drugged,” Louwrens told the court.

“She also mentioned that a person, who is known to us, had been involved in this incident.

“She further mentioned a shorter, Tswana man with a black Golf vehicle that was involved and stated that she had a previous conviction of shoplifting in Welkom in 2009.”

Regarding the robbery at the Hawks’ offices in Stockdale Street, Louwrens said that, on the evening of July 26 2016, the accused approached the security guard on duty, claiming to be a new employee at FNB.

During this visit, she offered the security guard a juice which had apparently been spiked. Forensic evidence indicated the presence of drugs in the employee’s blood.

It was further alleged that, once the laced drink had taken effect, additional suspects arrived and opened two walk-in safes.

“While she was at the office the accused and the security guard exchanged numbers and she gave the security guard a missed call,” Louwrens told the court. “When we checked this number afterwards, it was no longer in use.

“We went into her WhatsApp profile and found a photo which was shown to the security guard, who identified Tlailane as the suspect.”

Louwrens said that this phone number had also been used in Themba, Hammanskraal, on the day before the break-in in Kimberley.

He further rubbished claims that the accused had been assaulted by police officers. “She was arrested on December 7 and appeared in court in Kimberley on December 8. Today is December 18 and to my knowledge, this is the first time that she has mentioned an assault. The reason she is now making these claims is because she knows that the admissions she made are going to count.”

Tlailane’s legal representative, Advocate Johan Pretorius, argued that the mere fact that the Hawks was the complainant in the matter counted heavily against his client and had prejudiced the IO on the subject of whether bail should be granted.

Pretorius explained that Tlailane was a sex worker who had made the trip to Kimberley upon the request of one of her regular clients and carried no knowledge of the break-in.

The cross-examination proved to be a heated exchange between defence and the witness when Pretorius questioned whether the Hawks had investigated the possibility that the break-in had been an inside job.

“That is a dangerous allegation,” Louwrens told the court. “I do not have knowledge of any officer being involved. When a break-in of this manner takes place, this possibility is the first thing we investigate but to this day there is no evidence of police involvement.”

Pretorius also pointed out that detaining his client for the duration of the trial would be in contravention of the constitution, considering the strength of the case against her and the likelihood that she would evade trial.

“She has strong occupational, emotional and family ties and there is no indication that she would be a flight risk,” said Pretorius.

“This case is clearly sensitive to the IO because of the complainant. This is a schedule five application, so she does not need to show exceptional circumstances.

“There is no basis to argue that she would not come to Kimberley to stand trial.

“Gentlemen often have sex-workers accompanying them, but that does not mean that she has any knowledge of the crime.

“The IO has attempted to cast her in the worst possible light because the Hawks has been embarrassed about this crime. That is also why she was mistreated.”

Bail of R5 000 was granted on condition that the suspect reports to the Hammanskraal Police Station twice a week and is available for all court appearances.

The matter was postponed to the end of February for further investigation.