tight security as jeppestown gang in court

Amid tight security, the 12 men and one woman arrested for what became known as the "Jeppestown massacre" appeared in the Johannesburg high court yesterday, only to have the trial adjourned to today.

Amid tight security, the 12 men and one woman arrested for what became known as the "Jeppestown massacre" appeared in the Johannesburg high court yesterday, only to have the trial adjourned to today.

Closely guarded by armed policemen, and their 10 lawyers accompanying them, the neatly dressed group shuffled into the dock tethered together with ankle restraints.

The 25 charges most of them face include robbery with aggravating circumstances, murder and illegal possession of firearms - with evidence backed up by 99 witnesses.

On June 25 2006, they allegedly robbed a Pick 'n Pay supermarket at Honey Junction, on the corner of Christian de Wet and John Vorster Drive in Honeydew on the West Rand.

According to the indictment, the woman, Mary Dineo Maleke, worked at the supermarket.

Her boyfriend, second accused Senzo Mweli, allegedly arranged with her to meet some of the other accused where they discussed robbing the supermarket.

The state alleges that on Sunday morning of the robbery, Mweli and 11 of the accused, with at least nine other people believed to have been part of the gang, drove to the supermarket in about six vehicles.

The group entered the supermarket and proceeded to rob it, while shoppers were not spared in the process. They shot one shopper and then sped off in their getaway vehicles.

Police from various stations arrived and apprehended one person, Thembinkosi Tshabalala, and proceeded to a house in Jeppestown where accused 11 of the accused, and four other people were found.

Police surrounded the house while Willem van Niekerk, Frederick van Heerden, Peter Seaward, Gert Schoeman and Nzama Mathye entered the house.

Van Heerden, Seaward, Schoeman and Van Niekerk pushed open the door to a room where nine people were hiding.

The policemen immediately came under fire.

Van Heerden, Seaward and Schoeman were shot down while Van Niekerk was shot and wounded in the leg.

Mathye was also wounded . Van Heerden dragged Mathye to safety, but while lying outside, he was shot again and died. Seaward and Schoeman also died from their wounds at the scene.

One of the robbers, Bonga Zondi, ran out of the house firing at police, who returned fire, killing him.

After long negotiations, the remaining accused were arrested as they emerged from the house in surrender.

When the shooting ended, four policemen and eight robbers lay dead. - Sapa

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