South Africa

Specialised detective unit assigned to New Year’s shootings in Melville, Newtown

By News24 17 January 2020
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Illustrative image | source: Flickr/David Stillman

A specialised detective unit of the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Organised Crime Component, has been assigned to investigate the Melville and Newtown New Year’s shootings, police have said.

“[The unit] houses, among others, the Narcotics Unit, Taxi Violence Unit, and the Anti-Corruption Unit,” said SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.

“The component has very competent and seasoned investigators who have delivered successful arrests that have led to successful convictions in relation to serious and violent crimes,” Peters told News24.

The shootings left Johannesburg and South Africa reeling when, just an hour into the New Year, a black BMW SUV slowly cruised past Poppy’s Restaurant in Melville and opened fire on patrons, killing two women and injuring six other people.

Soon after this, a car crossed the M2 bridge in Newtown and opened fire on Mary Fitzgerald Square below, injuring 11 people.

The motive for both attacks is still unknown.

No arrests have been made.

Two days later, Gauteng acting premier Panyaza Lesufi said police were close to cracking the Melville case and revealed that the number plates on the BMW had been cloned.

He added the investigation into Mary Fitzgerald Square was proving more difficult due to a lack of evidence, such as witnesses and CCTV footage.

Last week, police appealed to the public for help in tracking the perpetrators of both shootings, and offered a cash reward.

Peters said the police “wish not to be drawn into commenting on what was said by MEC Lesufi in his capacity as then-acting premier”, but said the reward should not be misunderstood as the police having hit a dead end in their investigations.

She said provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Elias Mawela had instructed investigators to “leave no stone unturned” in tracking down the perpetrators.

“That said, offering a reward for information happens to be one of a number of options at the disposal of investigators… [it is] a necessary option towards a watertight case that will ultimately be placed on the court roll and see a successful conviction.

“We have acknowledged before that one of the challenges in investigating the Mary Fitzgerald Square shooting is the absence of witnesses, and hence the public appeal for information in exchange for a cash reward that is intended to serve as an incentive to encourage anyone who might have knowledge, but is reluctant to come forward for whatever reason,” Peters said.

Peters, however, said they would not pressure investigators “for the sake of appeasing the media” or give a “blow-by-blow” account of the investigation.

“The one thing we also do not want to do is to rush or pressure our investigators into making arrests for the sake of appeasing the media and hence our repeated calls for the police to be given the space to do their work without the investigators having to give status reports or blow-by-blow accounts of the investigation to the media.”

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