A judge and the public gallery were stunned into silence when the widow of a mining executive and her friend hid inside the dock yesterday when asked to plead to his murder.
Judge Kathy Satchwell was presiding in the case against Tinky Sophie Mojapelo, 38, and Antoinette Masuku, 36, who began acting strangely when charges of kidnapping and murder were put to them.
They ducked and lay on the floor of the accused's box when asked to plead.
An obviously surprised Satchwell warned the women that in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act, the court could proceed with the case in their absence if their behaviour made it necessary.
"I will not order you to be removed from court, but it is important that you be warned," Judge Satchwell said.
Mojapelo and Masuku refused to plead to charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, kidnapping and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The judge said their silence meant that they were pleading not guilty to all charges.
Together with alleged hitman Orlando Mandoza, 32, the women are accused of murdering Mojapelo's husband, Albert Mojapelo, 47, a day before he was to receive a retirement package of more than R1million in 2005.
On Monday, Mandoza failed to return to court after an adjournment to consult his lawyer.
A warrant for his arrest has since been issued.
The Mozambican national was out on R5000 bail and has not been apprehended yet.
It is alleged the three kidnapped and shot Mojapelo execution style at Orange Farm, Vaal, on September 28 2005 after Mandoza and two men had kidnapped him from his home in Hillshaven, Westonaria, on the West Rand.
They drove him in his four-wheel drive vehicle to an veld where he was shot in the head with his hands tied behind his back.
Yesterday the two women again appeared without their defence counsel, Danie Koen, despite being ordered in the past two days to do so by Judge Satchwell.
Inside court yesterday, Mojapelo and Masuku accused the judge of being biased against them and said they would not have a fair trial. They said Satchwell had already convicted them before their trial started.
"I am not going to recuse myself from this case. We have already wasted three days," Satchwell said.
The case continues today and the women's bail of R5000 each was extended.