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Phone records key in murder probe

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“I was surprised to see the accused talking on the phone twice, after he said that he did not have a phone.”

The accused standing trial for the kidnapping and murder of Danielskuil DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and Shuping Jeffrey Nouse - (from left) Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zonizelo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu - in the dock in the Northern Cape High Court as the trial continued yesterday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

FURTHER testimony from the investigating officer in the murder and kidnapping trial of slain DA councillor Johannes Baatjies has linked the State witness and three of the accused to the murder.

Baatjies’ body was found along the the Postmasburg and Groenwater road on August 18 2016 after he was lured to a bogus business meeting the previous day to apparently discuss an R800 000 paving tender.

The incident happened a day before Baatjies was due to be sworn in as a DA councillor at the Kgatelopele Municipality.

Shuping Nouse, who accompanied Baatjies to the meeting, was shot in the face and died later in hospital on August 23 2016.

The accused – Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zonizelo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu – denied any involvement in what the State has described as “a planned and premeditated murder”.

The investigating officer in the case, Lieutenant-Colonel Rudolph Louwrens, who is attached to the Hawks in Kimberley and is an expert on cellphone technology, testified yesterday in the Northern Cape High Court that further investigation into the cellphone records of one of the accused, Zonizelo Richard Magawu, had led him to Tiro Lekgotla, who later turned State witness in the case.

Louwrens said that after he had arrested Magawu in connection with the crime, he went to the cellphone shop where Magawu had apparently reported his cellphone as missing.

“On August 22 2016, Magawu appeared in the Danielskuil Magistrate’s Court. On the same day I went to the cellphone shop where the accused had reported his cellphone as missing. I saw there were CCTV cameras inside the shop and I requested to see the footage of August 17 2016, which was the day Magawu said he had gone to the shop.

“From the footage I saw Magawu, the shop assistant and a man named Boitumelo. I later observed the shop assistant tearing open an item and giving something to Magawu. The shop assistant kept the remainder of that item and I asked him where it was. He handed me a string of three Cell C SIM cards.”

Louwrens said that he also noticed in the footage that Magawu was talking on a cellphone although he had said that he did not have a phone.

“I was surprised to see the accused talking on the phone twice, after he said that he did not have a phone.”

Louwrens stated that the number for the cellphone used to send a message to Baatjies was also registered on the Cell C network.

“From the documents I acquired from the cellphone network I could see that the number contacted Baatjies 30 minutes after it had left the shop. On the same day that Baatjies was contacted, the same number also made contact with Lekgotla. I requested Lekgotla to come to my office and he came with his attorney.”

Louwrens added that at that stage he already knew Lekgotla and had received his cellphone records from his cellphone network.

“From Lekgotla’s records I could see that on August 17 2016 he moved from Kuruman to Danielskuil. On the same day he moved from Danielskuil to Postmasburg. The records then indicated that at 8pm that night he moved from Postmasburg in the direction of Danielskuil and Groenwater. At that stage I was aware that the body of the deceased was found along the road near Groenwater. In light of Lekgotla’s cellphone movement and the contact he had with the number of Magawu, it was very important for me to contact him to come into the office.”

Louwrens said Lekgotla at first denied any involvement in the matter, prior to being shown the cellphone records. He added that after Lekgotla saw the records, his attorney requested a private meeting with his client.

“Lekgotla, after the meeting, said he had decided to tell the entire truth,” Louwrens said.

He said Lekgotla told his version of how the events unfolded after which he (Louwrens) contacted the Director of Prosecution to request that Lekgotla be used as a State witness.

Louwrens said that on September 2 2016 the Director of Prosecutions gave the green light for Lekgotla to be used as a State witness.

Louwrens said that during the drafting of Lekgotla’s statement, he had told Lekgotla that he must arrange a meeting in Danielskuil with another accused, Thompson Mphondomisa, as he had established that they knew each other.

“Mphondomisa and Lekgotla knew each other as they had worked together on the mines. Lekgotla, in his statement, mentioned a firearm and R20 000 that he was supposed to receive for transporting people. I asked Lekgotla if he could meet with Mphondomisa on September 3 2016 to determine if he could get hold of the firearm used in the murder. Lekgotla said he had already received a R1 000 payment from the account of the fifth accused, Matthews Legodu.”

Louwrens said he obtained authorisation from the Director of Prosecutions should Lekgotla manage to get hold of the firearm during his meeting with Mphondomisa. “If he (Lekgotla) managed to get the firearm he would be in possession of an illegal firearm, therefore it was necessary to first get authorisation for that to happen.”

He added that arrangements were also made with the police to record the meeting between Lekgotla and Mphondomisa.

According to Louwrens, Mphondomisa, during the meeting, referred Lekgotla to Legodu for the payment of his money and the conversation between Legodu and Lekgotla was also recorded.

Louwrens said Mphondomisa was arrested at his house on September 6 2016 and on the same day the police also arrested Legodu. Both denied any involvement in the matter.

Louwrens said that, based on the information he had received from the State witness, he went to Kuruman to arrest Richard Hasane but he was not at home.

“While I was at Hasane’s house, I contacted him on the number given to me by Lekgotla. I informed him who I was and said I was at his house. Hasane later arrived home and I also arrested him. He also denied any involvement in the matter.”

Louwrens said he noticed two cars parked at Hasane’s house, while Hasane arrived in another car, and he enquired about the number of vehicles Hasane possessed. Hasane mentioned the three cars and also indicated that he owned a bakkie.

Louwrens said he asked Hasane why he did not mention a Jetta which he apparently also owned. He said he told Hasane that Lekgotla had indicated that the Jetta had been used to transport people from Danielskuil to Postmasburg.

According to Louwrens, Hasane indicated that the Jetta belonged to his girlfriend, which was the same information he had received from Lekgotla.

Louwrens said Hasane at first said that his girlfriend had left with the Jetta to go to the Eastern Cape, but later said she was at work.

“I told Hasane that we should go to his girlfriend’s workplace to see the vehicle. I also told him that, according to Lekgotla, there had been an empty cartridge and holster inside the Jetta when they returned from Postmasburg to Kuruman and that Hasane had burnt the holster and flushed the cartridge.

“Hasane denied this and told me that he had not heard any gunshots but that there was someone in the boot in Postmasburg. Hasane said he and Lekgotla had decided to drive off as the person inside the boot managed to get out of the boot outside Postmasburg.

“As we were driving, Hasane was giving me directions and I was under the impression that we were headed to the workplace of his girlfriend. We, however, ended up at the girlfriend’s house. She was not at work as she was in the late stages of her pregnancy.”

Louwrens said that Hasane’s girlfriend acknowledged that the Jetta belonged to her but was shocked when she was informed that the vehicle was to be seized as it was linked to the investigation.

Louwrens said he requested the forensic team to investigate whether there were any bullet holes in the vehicle as Lekgotla had stated that Baatjies was shot while he was inside the boot of the car.

“According to Lekgotla, they saw that the boot of the car was open while the car was moving and that the backrest of the car was pushed down to shoot at Baatjies, who was inside the boot. The pictures taken by the forensic team also support the evidence of Lekgotla,” he said.

The trial continues.