- The accuracy of the police’s administration and record keeping came under the spotlight in the Pete Mihalik murder trial on Tuesday.
- The late Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear’s partner is on the stand testifying on their work in the crucial early hours.
- The defence is going through the paperwork pointing out missing signatures and an incorrect case number attached to evidence.
The lawyer representing one of the men accused of assassinating Cape Town advocate Pete Mihalik alleged the police had a cellphone linked to a different case in evidence as the murder trial continued on Tuesday.
Advocate Louise Luterek grilled Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) Sergeant Leatitia van der Horst on the case number that was used to bag and tag a cellphone seized from a suspect on the afternoon of Mihalik’s murder.
A cellphone was seized from Sizwe Biyela after he was apprehended at Bellville’s Teddington Road bus station after the murder.
He bought a ticket at 14:40 for R489, for the departure time of 16:30.
Mihalik was shot dead in his car on 30 October 2018 in Green Point while taking his children to school. His son was injured. His daughter was also with him at the time.
Biyela, Nkosinathi Khumalo were taken into custody by sunset the same day, while Vuyile Maliti presented himself to police a week later.
They have all pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder, and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
On Tuesday, Van der Horst testified she and her partner, Lieutenant-Colonel Charl Kinnear, arrived at the crime scene in Green Point at around 08:00.
By then, visible policing and detectives were sealing off the area to look for evidence.
Mihalik was in the front seat of his Mercedes-Benz SUV, dead from a bullet to the head and jaw.
A resident had switched the engine off because the music was still playing, and his foot was on the brake.
Mihalik’s son was rushed to hospital because a bullet fragment hit his neck and he was bleeding profusely. His teenage daughter was being comforted by parents at her nearby school.
The murder shook the legal fraternity.
Earlier that year, lawyer William Booth was shot at inside his house in Cape Town.
His clients include a man who alleges he was threatened by businessman Nafiz Modack and his associates into paying back money used in a bad investment.
In 2016, lawyer Noorudien Hassan was murdered in Lansdowne. He had defended Irshaan Laher, who was accused of being in a racket moving guns meant for destruction by police to gangs.
Advocate Vernon Jantjies was shot dead in Lentegeur, Mitchells Plain in 2019. He was reportedly the defence lawyer for an accused in a gang drug case.
After their arrival at the scene of Mihalik’s murder, Van der Horst went to B.I.G. backpackers and asked for CCTV footage. She watched it and took a picture of the suspected shooter off the monitor with her cellphone.
Meanwhile, Khumalo was taken into custody not long afterwards by a traffic official after a sequence of events relating to jumping a stop street.
On Tuesday, Van der Horst testified Kinnear said they must go to the bus station in Bellville.
She said she did not know if Biyela’s phone had been tracked, but they got to the bus stop after 14:00. They did a walkaround and could not find him, so they sat in the car and waited.
They did another walkabout, and Kinnear spotted Biyela.
He searched him, put him in the car and explained his rights, according to Van der Horst.
The following items were seized from Biyela: a Nokia cellphone, MTN and Vodacom SIM cards, money, a wallet, his ID, a bus ticket for later that afternoon, and Vaseline lip balm.
He wore black Pumas and blue jeans, but there was disagreement over the colour of his top at the bus stop – whether it was a dark or camel.
When items are taken in by the police, they get a Criminal Administration System (CAS) number, which is the case number of that individual case.
Advocate Pete Mihalik.
Netwerk24 Jaco Marais/Netwerk24
The CAS number is divided into three sections – the first number is the case number for the day, and it is separated by a forward slash to two digits to show which number it is, then the last four digits indicate the year.
Luterek pointed out the cellphone entered into evidence in the Mihalik case that was seized from Biyela was recorded as a December case, with the “12” in the reference number indicating this.
She said if it was indeed Biyela’s phone, it would show 10 to indicate the crime was committed in October.
“That is not my handwriting,” said Van der Horst, after the isiZulu and isiXhosa interpreters had relayed the translation to the accused.
“So, how can this court say that phone belongs to this case if that case number is wrong?” asked Luterek.
Prosecutor Greg Wolmarans leapt up to say it was clear there was meant to be a 10, not a 12.
Van der Horst also had to confirm commissioning some of the early documents when Khumalo and Biyela were taken into custody and charged.
Biyela alleges his rights were not read to him in the car as claimed, and when they were, they were explained in English.
Khumalo alleges he was tortured into signing a statement of admissions that he did not make.
In this disputed statement, he said he came to Cape Town from KwaZulu-Natal to drive a taxi for Maliti who owns a taxi company.
He added he found himself with Biyela and Khumalo and a man with a light complexion on a mission to kill a white man.
Anti-Gang Unit senior detective Lieutenant Colonel Charl Kinnear.
Netwerk24 Melinda Stuurman
Kinnear was murdered on 18 September 2020, so other officers are also vouching for some of his work related to this case.
Luterek pointed out her copy of one of the documents commissioned by Van der Horst did not contain her signature on one of the pages.
Judge Constance Nziweni said the signature was on the document handed up to her by the State, so Luterek handed her an unsigned copy into the record.
It is the second time there has been a discrepancy between a document the judge has, and a document the defence was given.
Meanwhile, the court heard in earlier testimony it would be a week before Maliti entered the picture as a suspect.
While the police were trawling the crime scene, questioning Khumalo, and on their way to the Bellville bus stop, Maliti was changing 11 Kruger Rands at around 13:00. He made R200 000 out of the deal.
He presented himself to police a week later when he heard they wanted to question him.
Van der Horst was asked by Khumalo’s defence advocate, Pieter Nel, if she had made any statement regarding her early involvement in the investigation.
She said she did but did not hand it in because she was in hospital.
The defence also asked Van der Horst why she did not sign all the pages of the early notice of rights, and a document of admissions she commissioned for Kinnear.
The trial continues.