heist suspects walk

Thanduxolo Jika

Thanduxolo Jika

Twenty cash-in-transit suspects, each facing 10 charges, were set free this week.

The case against the men, suspected of being part of a sophisticated cash-heist gang, was struck off the roll by the Mdantsane regional court on Monday.

After repeated delays by investigators and prosecutors, magistrate Jannie van der Vyver said he had no choice but to withdraw the charges.

Each suspect was facing 10 charges, including conspiracy to commit murder and robbery at West Bank Coin Security almost a year ago.

They were arrested in a stakeout last February at a warehouse in Fort Jackson, where police found an arsenal of firearms.

Investigating officer Patrick Rooi told the court he had not yet received the remaining DNA results of the accused from the police forensic laboratory.

Magistrate Van der Vyver, who had previously warned the state about outstanding evidence to which the defence had no access, struck the case off the roll because of the delays.

Defence lawyers had insisted that they would not go to trial without having all the evidence the state intended to use against their clients.

It was the second time the suspects' lawyers had applied for the charges to be withdrawn.

In July last year, Koos van Vuuren, SC, and advocate Jimmy Howse opposed the state's application to proceed without having completed its investigation.

The lawyers argued they were not going to be held to ransom by the state and go to trial without knowing whether the outstanding DNAs implicated the accused.

Van der Vyver ruled in favour of the state then, giving it a last chance to supply the defence with all outstanding information.

The state was given until January 21 for a trial date to be arranged, but once more on Monday the prosecution asked for a postponement.

Nineteen of the suspects were released on bail last year, while one was kept in custody on another charge.