Picture of man who killed forensic auditor Lawrence Moepi under the spotlight
Mpho David Nkosi argued the only reason he was convicted was because one of Moepi’s colleagues saw his picture in the newspaper shortly after the assassination.
The witness at first told the police that he had not seen the face of the man who handled the gun (Nkosi).
A few weeks later he changed his tune and told the police that he saw the man, and he fully described what he looked like.
But Nkosi told the Johannesburg High Court on appeal that the man, identified in the judgment as Sew persad, was only able to identify him from the picture handed to the media by the police at the time when they were still looking for Nkosi.
He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment alongside his co- accused, Remember Siphoro, in 2014.
Moepi was gunned down in cold blood in October 2013 in the parking lot of his Houghton auditing firm, SizweNtsalubaGobodo.
At the time of his death Moepi had been working on high profile cases on behalf of the public protector’s office and the then Scorpions.
It was believed that his killing was related to the work he was doing. However, it turned out that he was killed because he had had an affair with Siphoro’s former girlfriend.
Moepi was followed on the morning of the assassination by two men - the convicted killers - in a Volkswagen Golf.
When he stopped in the parking lot, the passenger of the Golf - Nkosi - got out and fired several shots at him through the door.
When Moepi tried to get out of the vehicle, the shooter fired several more shots at him. Nkosi then ran back to the waiting Golf, but he then noticed Sewpersad standing next to his car, which was parked a short distance away.
Nkosi aimed the firearm at him before he got into the Golf. The driver, Siphoro, sped away.
Siphoro was later identified by another witness, who also entered the parking lot during the incident.
Nkosi meanwhile said the trial court was wrong in accepting Sewpersad’s evidence that he recognised him (Nkosi) as the man who pulled the trigger.
Sewpersad conceded that he at first lied to the police when he told them he did not see the face of the shooter.
But he later said he feared for his life, as Nkosi was still on the run at the time, and given the fact that he pointed the firearm at him after the killing.
Sewpersad said that when he saw the picture in the newspaper a few days later, with the caption that the police were looking for this man in connection with the assassination, he once again recognised Nkosi.
He changed his statement to the police and described the features of the man to them.
Judge Brian Spilg said this was significant, as he described exactly what Nkosi looked like, even before he again saw him in court. It also emerged at the time that Nkosi was on the run from the police. He was only arrested months after the killing.
Judge Spilg said he understood why Sewpersad at first said he could not identify the shooter. “Witnesses are generally ordinary people caught up in situations not necessarily of their own making. They may believe that fate dealt them a cruel hand and would dearly love to distance themselves from the events They may genuinely be fearful of repercussions,” he said.
The judge added that there would be more and more occasions where the only reasonable means of locating a suspect was by circulating his or her picture or police sketch in the printed or electronic media.
In turning down Nkosi’s appeal, the judge said he was satisfied that he had been positively identified.