Court told: Suspects may kill witnesses

Hawks officer disputes criminal records, says trio is dangerous

A gavel in court. German flag with shears in the background.
A gavel in court. German flag with shears in the background.
Image: 123RF/Ginasanders

Three of the five men arrested by the Hawks in connection with a conspiracy to rob R70m from a well-known East London butchery might still carry out the robbery if released on bail – and they could kill state witnesses.

This shocking statement was made by a member of the Hawks Organised Crime Unit.

He is the leading investigating officer in the case against Isaac Warren, 30, of Parkside, Al Percino Shearea, 34 of Parkridge and Dina Shirly Gunuza, 55, also from Parkridge.

The officer, whom the Hawks have asked the Dispatch not to name as his life may be in danger, told East London magistrate Joel Cesar during the bail hearing that releasing the men on bail could jeopardise the case. “Based on the information I have about the accused, they will disturb the witnesses.

“I fear that they will kill the witnesses, who are also fearing for their lives.”

The investigating officer told the court that witnesses were already receiving death threats for being whistle-blowers in the case.

I fear that they will kill the witnesses, who are also fearing for their lives.

The officer said: “These guys are harsh. They don’t go to robberies as if they are attending church or are nurses, they use force. And we have evidence that in this case they were planning to kidnap the son of the butchery owner.”

In the dock Warren, Shearea and Gunuza were joined by coaccused Sonwabile Mafanya, 43, from Mdantsane and Patison Ncube, 42 from Johannesburg. Mafanya and Ncube have not applied for bail.

Warren, Ncube and Mafanya were arrested on July 12 near the butchery they were allegedly about to rob and Shearea and Gunuza were arrested on July 26.

The Hawks officer said he had arrested Shearea and Gunuza after positively identifying them in video footage of a meetThe ing at Gunuza’s home, where the butchery heist was planned.

There was some confusion over Warren’s abode.

State prosecutor Bonginkosi Mafa read an affidavit claiming that Warren was an East Londoner, but the Hawks claimed he was permanently based in Johannesburg.

officer told the court he still needed to verify Warren’s addresses which included places in Sophiatown, Northcliff, Rivonia and Sandton.

The Hawks officer rejected Warren’s earlier claims in an affidavit about not having a criminal record. He said Warren’s history was littered with criminal records committed in 2002, 2009, and 2012.

The Hawks said they had a confession from one of the accused, who was willing to testify about the plan to rob the butchery.

The officer said Shearea, also known as “Cino”, had a pending case of fraud against him involving R800,000 allegedly committed in Johannesburg in October 2016.

The officer said Shearea was on free bail and the case was postponed to September 14 this year.

The bail hearing will continue on August 13.