Two arrested in connection with Babita Deokaran murder released
Two people arrested in connection with the murder of senior Gauteng health department finance official Babita Deokaran have been released, the Hawks said.
Hawks spokesperson Lt-Col Philani Nkwalase told TimesLIVE the two men were released on Friday afternoon.
Their release comes on the back of an announcement by police minister Bheki Cele, who confirmed their arrests during a visit to Phoenix in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday. He said the police recovered “a lot of cash”, two vehicles and one firearm when making the arrest.
“But, interesting, it looks like they have been arrested with a lot of cash in their cars. The story was that it was an expensive exercise, where people were getting a lot of money each to pull the mission of killing Babita,” said Cele.
But Nkwalase said the firearm found in their possession was licensed and the money was all accounted for “due to their business activity”.
“The investigation into the murder continues and more arrests are imminent, subject to the ongoing exploration,” he said.
The two men were detained for questioning before being cleared and released, Nkwalase said.
Earlier this week, six other suspects appeared in the Johannesburg magistrate’s court in connection with the murder.
Originally, seven men were arrested but only six — Phakamani Hadebe, Zita Hadebe, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Sanele Mbele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla — appeared in court.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the “seventh suspect could not be linked to evidence”.
They were charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of unlicensed firearms.
Deokaran, 53, died in a hail of bullets last Monday in Winchester Hills, south of Johannesburg. She was a key witness in an investigation run from Gauteng premier David Makhura’s office into personal protective equipment (PPE) tender corruption.
The matter has been postponed to September 13 for bail applications.
Gauteng Hawks spokesperson Capt Ndivhuwo Mulamu said a woman who was in the car with Deokaran at the time of the attack was in a “safe place”.