Why the Coffin Two were found guilty of attempted murder‚ kidnapping‚ assault

25 August 2017 - 17:20 By Kgaugelo Masweneng
The two men accused of forcing a man into a coffin and threatening to douse him in petrol appeared at the Middelburg Regional Court. File photo.
Everything you need to know about the coffin case The two men accused of forcing a man into a coffin and threatening to douse him in petrol appeared at the Middelburg Regional Court. File photo.

It took Judge Segopotje Mphahlele four hours to complete giving the reasons for finding the accused in the coffin case guilty of six out of seven charges.

The judgment was handed down in the high court in Middleburg‚ Mpumalanga‚ on Friday.

The two men‚ Willem Oosthuizen and Theo Jackson‚ faced charges of (1) attempted murder‚ (2 and 3) two separate counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm‚ (4) kidnapping‚ (5) intimidation‚ (6) unlawful possession of a firearm and (7) defeating the ends of justice.

The men were accused of forcing Mlotshwa into a coffin and threatening to kill him. They had made a video of this on a cellphone‚ which was admitted as evidence during the bail application of the two.

The judge commended the police for their work in proving beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were indeed guilty.

On the charges of assault in relation to Delton Sithole and Victor Mlotshwa the two were found guilty.

“I am satisfied that the state has proven beyond reasonable doubt that there was intention [by] both accused to inflict grievous bodily harm on Sithole and Mlotshwa. It must be appreciated that whether the grievous harm was‚ in fact‚ inflicted on the victim is immaterial in determining this issue.

“It is simply the intention to do such harm that is in question‚” Mphahlele said.

During the bail application‚ Sithole said that on August 17 2016‚ Jackson and Oosthuizen had assaulted him he was walking on a footpath on the JM DE Boerdery farm near the Komati Power Station‚ between Middleburg and Bethal‚ to the nearby Big House informal settlement.

Sithole told the court that he believed he would have been placed in the coffin had Mlotshwa not appeared.

Oosthuizen and Jackson were found guilty of the attempted murder of Mlotshwa.

The judge said that for an accused to be declared guilty of such a crime is if “he unlawfully engages in conduct that is not merely preparatory but has reached at least the commencement of the intended crime”.

Mphahlele further said the conduct of the accused at the scene is evidence of an intention to murder.

“Their conduct‚ if persisted with‚ could have led at the death of Mlotshwa.”

That just because they voluntarily withdrew does not mean the two men did not intend to commit the murder. On defeating and attempting to obstruct the ends of justice‚ only Jackson was found guilty.

The judge took the fact that the coffin was burnt before the video went viral on social media and the criminal case had not yet opened as enough evidence for this charge.

“It is sufficient that the second accused subjectively foresaw the possibility that his conduct might in the ordinary course of events lead to the case being prosecuted or at least being investigated by the police‚” she said.

In relation to kidnapping and intimidation the judge found that there was overwhelming evidence against the accused.

“The accused themselves testified that they limited the movement of Mlotshwa and at one stage the first accused [Oosthuizen] drove at such fast speed to ensure that the accused did not get off the bakkie. Further‚ Mlotshwa was intimidated not to report the matter with the police‚’ said Mphahlele.

The judge was satisfied that the state has beyond the shadow of a doubt proven all charges except for the possession of illegal firearm‚ therefore no one was found guilty of having had a gun.

“There was no sufficient evidence before this court that the instrument referred to by the complainant was indeed a firearm‚” Mphahlele said.

Oosthuizen and Jackson had pleaded not guilty to all charges.