A high court judge has criticised the poor police investigation into the murder of a Pretoria businessman, which resulted in the acquittal of five suspected robbers.
"If the State cannot prove its case beyond reasonable doubt, the court cannot convict the accused," Judge Cynthia Pretorius said in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria on Wednesday.
She acquitted murder accused Enoch Masipa, Benginkosi Modawe, Johannes Sebyeng, Lolo Langa and Godfrey Mogashoa.
They were accused of killing Pretoria North businessman Hein de Jager and robbing Dreiers hardware store of cash in March 2008.
Pretorius told De Jager's family she found it upsetting to do what she had to do.
In earlier evidence, the court heard that De Jager, 28, was holding his arms up in surrender when he was shot in the chest at close range.
The accused and their families applauded, laughed and hugged each other after they were acquitted.
De Jager's parents were upset. His father Cor blamed the police and the prosecutor. However, he said it would serve no purpose to institute a private prosecution against the men.
Pretorius said the court would always have its suspicions, but that all five accused would escape the consequences of the law.
She asked why the police had not held a proper identity parade or followed up information about the murder weapon given to them by one of the accused.
Pretorius ruled that a pointing-out by Masipa and a confession by Langa were inadmissible because the State had not proved that the statements were made freely and voluntarily.
Masipa had not been arrested or warned of his rights before he made the pointing-out and the police had deliberately failed to inform Langa's legal representative that he was about to make a confession.
Pretorius said red lights also flickered about Langa's sudden urge (according to the police) to confess six months after the incident, when there was no evidence against him at that stage.
Langa claimed the police had promised he would get bail and be made a State's witness if he confessed.
The judge said it was also unfortunate that the State's own witness - Masipa's girlfriend - provided Masipa with an alibi in her evidence.
The girlfriend testified that Masipa had used her car, but that he was with her and their child in Soshanguve when the robbery took place.
Hours after the robbery police found a handbag, which had been taken at the scene, in the car.
The State did not present evidence to refute her claims.
Langa was arrested because he was linked to the murder through his possession of the murder weapon two months after De Jager's murder.
However, police failed to follow up on his explanation that he received the weapon from someone else a month earlier.
Nothing but Fkg pathetic....!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
"The accused and their families applauded, laughed and hugged each other after they were acquitted"............huh murdering swine , I console myself by believing that what goes around comes around.
This is pathetic!!! All the officers involved should be named and shamed in public and they should never be allowed back into the police force!!! You allowed murderers to get away with it. Would you do the same if it was your family???
I think the opposite will happen; they will get promoted!
Sick to the core of my stomach. What is to become of this country...?
Not what is to become of the country but "this country is f----d"
Just one question I'd like to pose to Judge Pretorius... was your doubt beyond reasonable? If it clear that they committed the act, but "technicalities" let them off the hook. Is that cause for "beyond reasonable doubt"? I don't know how it works, but to me the criminals are all being let off the hook because of the constitution. I would have thought that the constitution (increasingly under threat) should provide firstly for the law-abiding... clearly not...