Statement made by Krugersdorp murder accused cannot be used as evidence‚ court rules
The High Court in Johannesburg on Tuesday ruled that a statement taken by an investigating officer in 2015 - in which one of alleged “Krugersdorp killers”‚ Zak Valentine‚ apparently incriminated himself – could not be used as evidence in the case.
The high court held a trial-within-a-trial to determine whether the admissions Valentine made in the statement he signed on December 6 2015 should be admissible. The admission is linked to a vehicle in the vicinity of a crime in Krugersdorp.
Valentine and his co-accused‚ Cecilia Steyn‚ 37‚ and Marcel Steyn‚ 20‚ are accused of murdering 11 people between 2012 and 2016. Added to that are charges of robbery‚ aggravated assault‚ racketeering‚ possession of an unlicensed firearm‚ fraud and identity theft.
They have pleaded not guilty to 32 counts‚ including murder‚ robbery with aggravating circumstances‚ fraud and intimidation.
In court on Tuesday it emerged that Valentine had signed a statement‚ which was written by a police official on December 6 2015. The investigating officer had questions surrounding a vehicle registered in Valentine’s name and which was in the vicinity of a crime scene.
He asked Valentine a number of questions without warning Valentine that he was considered a suspect. In the statement‚ it is believed Valentine made admissions incriminating himself.
The state had wanted the statement to be admitted as evidence‚ while Valentine’s lawyer‚ Amanda Nel‚ said it should be excluded as Valentine was not warned of his right not to incriminate himself. He was also not warned that he was a suspect in an ongoing investigation.
Valentine testified on Tuesday that he voluntarily met with the police official on December 6 2015. However‚ he said that had he known he was a suspect then he would have chosen to remain silent.
Francis asked prosecutor Gerrit Roberts SC whether Valentine was warned by the police officer that he was a suspect when he was questioned. Roberts admitted that Valentine was not.
The judge told Roberts that the police officer should have warned or cautioned Valentine.
“Do you still think the statement should be admissible?” Francis asked.
Roberts responded that the court had discretion to allow evidence that had been improperly obtained.
“We concede it was improperly obtained‚ but it is not the end of the matter. There are several instances where evidence was obtained unconstitutionally but [that] evidence was allowed in the interest of justice‚ provided it…would not render the trial unfair‚” Roberts said.
After argument on Tuesday‚ Judge Ellem Jacob Francis ruled that Valentine’s statement was inadmissible‚ saying he would provide reasons for his decision in his main judgment.
The trial continues.
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