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Why revealing the name of Uyinene's alleged killer could jeopardize the case

It's critical not to share the name of the suspect in the Uyinene Mrwetyana case.
It's critical not to share the name of the suspect in the Uyinene Mrwetyana case.
Image: Facebook/Zuki Lamani

Revealing the identity of the 42-year-old man who is suspected of killing and raping 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana before he has taken part in an identity parade has serious legal consequences.

Media lawyer Willem De Klerk told TimesLIVE that both members of the public and journalists run the risk of being charged with contempt of court which may result in a fine or imprisonment if they publish or share the man's name, including on social media.

The man's name and image has been widely shared on social media and by two prominent media houses.

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On Monday, the magistrate at the Wynberg court barred the public and media from revealing the identity of the suspect until he has been lined up with other potential suspects, and positively identified by witnesses.

According to De Klerk, revealing the name and/or publishing the images of the suspect could sabotage the state's case against him.

“If his picture is published in the media, then the identity parade will be flawed because the witness may already have seen his picture in the media, and the suspect's lawyers will be able to question the credibility of any witness. It may well prejudice the state's case.”

The same rule applies should the man be linked to other crimes which have witnesses.

De Klerk noted the confusion as to why the suspect could not be named, even after his appearance in court.

“Normally, when a person has appeared in court, that person may be identified. Only in exceptional cases or if there's a court order, like in this matter, you may not until the court order is rescinded.” 

Mrwetyana was seen leaving her university residence Roscommon House on Saturday August 24. It later emerged that she was last seen at the Clareinch post office, where she was lured by an employee who allegedly raped, beat her until she was unconscious and murdered her. 

The case has been postponed to November 5.