20 June 2018

South Africa: Siam Lee Murder Accused Granted R40 000 Bail

The man accused of the murder of Durban North sex worker Siam Lee was granted R40 000 bail in the Durban Magistrate's Court on Wednesday.

Philani Ntuli, who faces a string of charges related to Lee's murder and others relating to his ex-fiancé, was arrested after Lee's body was discovered in a sugarcane field in New Hanover, KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, in January.

In handing down judgment, Magistrate Mohamed Motala stressed that it was important for him to fulfill the oath of his office, without being influenced by public opinion.

The State had submitted that it was opposing Ntuli's bail because of the public outrage the matter had generated.

Motala criticised the police and the private investigators who arrested Ntuli for not following constitutional procedures during the arrest.

He said the State, when it was opposing bail in the matter, had "relied heavily" on the evidence that was gathered on the same date.

The court heard that the private investigators and the police had entered Ntuli's premises without a search warrant. Ntuli was not there at the time and the investigators had gained entry to his home without his knowledge, said Motala.

'Unconstitutionally obtained evidence'

He said the State had also relied on some of the evidence that was removed from Ntuli's home, including his hired vehicle.

Ntuli's defence lawyer Martin Krog had said he would challenge any "unconstitutionally obtained evidence" during Ntuli's trial, referring to evidence that was obtained at Ntuli's home without the search warrant.

Motala asked why the investigating team didn't obtain a search warrant at the Pinetown Magistrate's Court, which is near Ntuli's home.

During his bail application Ntuli also said he was assaulted when he arrived at his home on the day of his arrest.

The State had submitted that Ntuli was Lee's last customer on the day of her disappearance. It alleged that Lee was murdered between January 4 to 6 by Ntuli.

Motala said the exact date, time and place where Lee had been murdered had not been established.

Motala emphasised that Ntuli had no previous convictions, despite appearing in different courts around the country on at least three occasions in the past two years.

"It must be emphasised that he has not been found guilty on all the charges," said Motala.

Personal circumstances

Earlier this year, Ntuli violated a protection order that his ex-fiancé Lucky Mthembu had brought against him. Ntuli said this was evidence of a propensity to interfere with the case.

Mthembu had obtained the order after an alleged altercation with Ntuli. He has been accused of strangling and kicking her during their relationship. Mthembu has laid attempted murder and intimidation charges against Ntuli.

Motala said he had also considered Ntuli's personal circumstances.

Ntuli had said his businesses were not doing well because of his incarceration. He said he was also responsible for taking care of his mother and 14-year-old brother, who goes to a private school.

He added that his 17 employees and their families had been going through financial strain since his arrest.

Motala also read out a string of bail conditions with which Ntuli needed to comply.

He has to live at his parental home in Sobantu, Pietermaritzburg.

He must give the investigating officer a 48-hour notice if he needs to relocate.

Bail conditions

He is entitled to travel to Johannesburg to attend to his other businesses, but must give the investigating officer 24-hours notice, a date of return and the address of the place where he will be staying.

He must report in person to the station commander of the Alexandra police station in Pietermaritzburg - and to a police station in Westonaria when in Johannesburg - every Monday, Wednesday and Friday between 06:00 and 18:00.

He was also warned not to interfere, communicate or contact State witnesses, and not to enter the property or home of his ex-fiancé.

He was asked to hand in any travel documents to the State.

Motala postponed the matter to August 17 for further investigation.

Source: News24

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