Cato Manor killing spree heads north

22 November 2015 - 02:00 By Stephan Hofstatter and Mzilikazi wa Afrika

Frikkie Greyling* was watching TV at his home in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, when he heard seven shots fired rapidly from the same gun in the street outside. His wife phoned the police. “I was in the house with my kids. I heard people talking outside,” he says in a statement on the incident in 2008.

He went to investigate. Two senior Cato Manor detectives stood near an unmarked gold Toyota double cab. A man was slumped in a white Chevrolet Aveo, barely alive. The policemen told Greyling the wounded man was a suspect in ATM bombings in KwaZulu-Natal, and ordered him to leave the crime scene.

The detectives said they had wounded the suspect after he pointed a gun at them when they tried to pull his car over.

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An hour later the suspect was shot dead by a private detective at the scene after he got out of the car and tried to grab a gun. A police memo says it was possible that “the deceased was killed execution- style” and a ballistics report would confirm it.

This is one of four cases cited in a memo drawn up in July this year for a disciplinary case against Booysen that led to his suspension as KwaZulu-Natal head of the Hawks in September. Booysen was in overall command of the unit, and close to several officers involved in the shootings.

This week, Booysen’s suspension was overturned by the High Court in Durban, which found there was no case against him. The Hawks said it would appeal against the ruling, prompting complaints in some quarters of a political witch-hunt against Booysen.

The memo says Booysen contravened police regulations when he allowed his men to conduct four operations outside his province. Their immediate commander, Colonel Rajen Aiyer, said in sworn statements he wasn’t aware his men had left the province.

These operations led to fatal shootings in Boksburg, Heidelberg, Thokoza and Bryanston in Gauteng, and Rustenburg in North West.

The memo recommends that Booysen be charged for “failing to subject several shooting incidents by members under his command” to a probe. This failure “led to the senseless killing of many victims which could have been prevented had he acted appropriately”.

It cites several incidents of Cato Manor members shooting suspects “without the knowledge of the investigators assigned to investigate the case concerned [and] without warrants or evidence to support the arrest”.

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In August 2011 the Cato Manor detectives struck in Thokoza township south of Johannesburg. At 4am they burst into the home of a man suspected of a murder and ATM bombing in KwaZulu-Natal.

The man’s girlfriend said in a statement he’d been naked and wasn’t carrying a weapon when he walked into their dining room to investigate.

She said there were no weapons in the house. When she heard gunshots she rushed to the lounge and saw her boyfriend lying in a pool of blood on the floor. He’d been hit in the chest and head.

The Cato Manor officers said the man had been armed, handing in a .38 special revolver with its serial number filed off, along with one spent cartridge.

A local policeman who arrived later said he saw the revolver lying next to the dead suspect’s body.

But another ATM bombing suspect who’d taken the Cato Manor officers to the house said when he was asked to identify his friend’s body immediately after the shooting there was no gun lying next to him.

A ballistics expert said it could not be determined if the spent cartridge had been fired by the revolver handed in.

Another local policeman said the officers refused to hand over their firearms and that members of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) at the scene did not take the docket.

Another ballistics expert also disputed the Cato Manor officers’ version of events.

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Two months later Cato Manor officers intercepted a car just after the De Hoek toll plaza on the N3 highway near Heidelberg.

One of the passengers was suspected of taking part in an armed robbery at Sibaya casino in Durban in 2010. He was travelling with his cousin and brother.

The officers say when they caught up with the car with blue lights flashing the suspect jumped out and shot at them while running away. They returned fire and killed him.

The suspect’s cousin and brother, who was driving, tell a different story. They say they pulled over as soon as they heard the police sirens, got out and were ordered to lie down at gunpoint with their hands behind their backs.

The survivors saw the suspect lying down with them. Then they heard shots being fired. They found out later he’d been shot dead.

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko said he was “following up” on the allegations against Booysen. If it was warranted Booysen would be “held

accountable” departmentally and criminally.  He declined to be drawn on whether there were plans to recharge Booysen criminally.

Booysen declined to be interviewed.

* Not his real name

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