Durban - Emotions ran high in the Durban High Court on Thursday, when Acting Judge Madlala Xolo found three uMlazi men guilty of killing eManzimtoti’s Stephen Coetzee.
Coetzee’s loved ones wept as judgment was delivered.
Coetzee, 22, was killed taking a bullet for his father when a gang of heavily-armed men stormed their home and tried to steal Stephen Coetzee senior’s car.
He was shot in the head and was taken to hospital, where he later died.
Coetzee senior was among those in court on Thursday.
He was visibly emotional, pacing up and down, and sobbing in front of the courthouse, when proceedings broke.
In delivering his judgment, Xolo said the court had been confronted with conflicting evidence and had had to look at its totality.
The facts of what had happened that fateful day were not disputed, he said, only who was responsible for Coetzee’s death.
All three accused – Nkululeko Mkhize, 23, Nhlakanipho Sikhonde, 25, and Mxolisi Zwane, 25 – pleaded not guilty to charges of robbery and murder.
During their trial, their counsel had argued that the State’s witnesses were part of a “conspiracy” against them, but this was not supported by the evidence, Xolo said.
“It was too wide and too farfetched (an idea),” he commented.
It was impossible that police from Gauteng – where accused one and two were arrested – police from KwaZulu-Natal and witnesses were all involved in such a conspiracy, Xolo said.
The accused had also taken issue with the manner in which the ID parade was conducted, but Xolo dismissed their objections.
Coetzee senior had identified four men at an identity parade in August 2012.
He also identified the alleged shooter, who was also arrested, but has since died while in custody.
Under cross-examination, Mkhize’s lawyer, HM Zulu, put it to Coetzee senior that it would be impossible to be able to identify his client and the others while a gun was being pointed at him.
But Xolo said on Thursday that Coetzee senior’s explanation that he knew to look at them because he had been hijacked recently, made sense.
Zwane had provided an alibi for the day of Coetzee’s murder and said he was with his girlfriend, in Gauteng, but Xolo did not believe him.
He called all three “hopeless cases” on the stand, but said, on the other hand, he had found the State’s witnesses credible and reliable.
The accused’s versions were found to be false and found all three guilty of both counts.
Sentencing was expected on Friday.
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