The Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court in Mbombela, Mpumalanga has heard that two of the four men accused of Hillary Gardee’s murder, were seen with her on the day she went missing. The investigating officer, Thamsanqa Mkhaliphi told the court that two witnesses saw Philemon Lukhele and Mduduzi Gama with Gardee. Mkhaliphi was opposing Lukhele’s bail application.
The court was also told that a police officer overheard Lukhele telling his lawyer that a witness had to be eliminated.
The Investigating Officer in the Hillary Gardee murder case told the Nelspruit Magistrate’s Court that two witnesses have implicated Philemon Lukhele in Gardee’s murder. Thamsanqa Mkhaliphi told the court that according to the first witness, Lukhele and Mduduzi Gama were seen transfering the body of the deceased from one vehicle to another at Lukhele’s house.
A second witness also saw Lukhele with three other people with the deceased in a stationery vehicle in Nelsville on the same day. Mkhaliphi added that drugs were also found inside Lukhele’s vehicle. The drugs have since been taken for testing. He also told the court that results of blood stains found at Lukhele’s house had insufficient DNA.
The court was told that police are still waiting for results on blood that was found in Lukhele’s car.
The court also heard that Lukhele is a bad father, and that he had not been supporting his eight-year-old child. The investigating officer produced two affidavits from the child’s mother and grandmother stating that he last supported the child when she was three-years-old.
Mkhaliphi says it would not be in the best interest of justice to grant Lukhele bail and that he is a flight risk. He added that the accused and the deceased had a business transaction, installing Wi-Fi at Lukhele’s guest house.
However, Lukhele claims to have not met the deceased. Mkhaliphi added that the accused will interfere with witnesses as he knows one of the witnesses in the case.
During cross-examination, the defence attorney Lesego Kwakwa poked holes in Mkhaliphi’s testimony, accusing him of misleading the court. According to Kwakwa, the results of the blood taken from Lukhele’s car doesn’t match that of the deceased and that it has been submitted as evidence to the court. He said the accused showed a sense of responsibility by availing himself to the police and also co-operated.
Lukhele, Sipho Mkhatshwa, Mduduzi Gama and Rassie Nkune have been charged with killing Hillary in May. They are facing charges that include kidnapping, murder, and conspiracy to commit murder.
Gardee’s body was found in a timber plantation a few kilometres outside Mbombela. On Monday, the same court denied Mkhatshwa bail, for the second time. He was first denied bail in August, and in October he was granted leave to re-apply for bail after his defence indicated that they have identified some inaccuracies in the indictment.
Video – Bail application for Sipho Mkhatshwa, one of the accused in the Hillary Gardee murder case: