The murder trial of armed robber Musa Taj Abdul and his eight accomplices opened at the High Court yesterday with all the suspects denying the charge.
Taj Abdul along with Elisha Manhanga, Prince Makodza, Liberty Mupamhanga, Rudolph Kanhanga, Innocent Jairos, Tapiwa Mangoma, Godfrey Mupamhanga, Charles Lundu are accused of murdering Mr Courage Ingwani during an armed robbery at Southview Park in Harare two years ago.
The nine were formally charged with the murder of Mr Ingwani when they appeared before Justice Munamato Mutevedzi sitting with assessors Mr Remigius Jemwa and Mr Bothwell Kunaka.
The prosecution successfully applied for separation of trial after two other suspects, Gerald Chiro and Carrington Marasha, pleaded the defence of reduced responsibility owing to insanity.
They will now have to go for medical examination to ascertain their mental statuses before they are put on trial.
The accused now on trial are putting forward the defence that they were not the gang that attacked Mr Ingwani and were not in the vicinity of his house. While the primary witness cannot positively identify the masked gang members, the prosecution is building its case on linking the gang to the weapon used and other evidence.
Lead prosecutor Ms Linet Masango alleged that on October 18, 2019, the gang went to Mr Ingwani’s house around midnight armed with a gun, hammers, machetes and some metal bars.
They broke down the gate to gain entry and when Mr Ingwani resisted their threats and fought back he was killed during the exchange of fire.
The gang then stormed the house and assaulted key witness Ms Gracious Mambudzi. They threatened to shoot her while demanding money. They allegedly ransacked the house and made off with cellphones and laptops.
Spent cartridges picked at the scene matched the firearm that was used to kill Mr Ingwani and police investigations linked the cases and the gun to the robbery in Concession on October 19, 2019.
Taj Abdul, Makodza, Mupamhanga brothers, Kanhanga, Jairos, Mangoma, Lundu and Marasaha were arrested separately in Beitbridge and were found in possession of a Vector pistol which through ballistics was matched to the cartridges found at Mr Ingwani’s house and at the scene of the Concession robbery.
The gang was early this year tried and convicted on a charge of illegal possession of this firearm, being the same weapon that was used to shoot Mr Ingwani.
They all denied the charge of murder claiming they were elsewhere when the crime took place.
After all the suspects proffered their defence outline to the charge, the State led evidence from Ms Mambudzi who gave an account of what transpired when a gang attacked her home.
She told the court that she was awakened by sounds of gunshots outside the house.
“I peeped through a curtain and saw one the robbers breaking the main gate with a big hammer.”
“Two other robbers entered through a hole they had made on the gate. One moved towards the bedroom while one was left trying to remove the key on the gate with a bolt cutter.”
Ms Mambudzi said Mr Ingwani moved from his bedroom fired at the two robbers, but his pistol jammed at first and it ejected two rounds on the floor.
He then moved to the small window on the other side of the dining room and started firing at the robbers who were also firing.
“I saw him going down and thought he was taking cover. I called to him but he did not respond,” she said.
She then crawled under the tables and later to the bedroom of Mr Ingwani’s son for cover. The three men who were now in the house followed her and demanded money and access to the safe, before they ransacked the house and made off with cellphones and laptops.
Under cross-examination by the defence team led by Mr Komborerayi Manenji of Manyangadze Law Practice, who is acting for Manhanga, Ms Mambudzi conceded that she could not identify the suspects as the culprits and gave the same replies to similar questions from Taj Abdul’s lawyer Mr Frederick Nyamande and Lundu’s lawyer Mr Tawanda Mavhudzi.
The prosecution case is predicated on the ballistic evidence which links the cartridges found at the scene of the crime with the gun that was found in possession of the gang upon their arrest in Beitbridge. The gun is also linked with the Concession robbery.
The trial continues today with the second State witness giving evidence.Herald