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2023/06/08      |  Written By:  Captain L Earle   |   Province:  Free State

FREE STATE: 7 June 2023 - The police in the Free State have made great strides in the fight against crimes committed on farms and small holdings in May. A total of 19 people were arrested in six incidents. Three people lost their lives. Not only did they arrest these 19 people, but they have kept most of them behind bars since their arrests by opposing bail in court.

Mr Lance Arthur Da Silva (62) was found with a gunshot wound to the left temple in the main bedroom on the farm Windpoort in the Rouxville District on Thursday 4 May 2023 at about 14:30. The 38-year-old Armand Opperman, who was allegedly living with the deceased on the farm, was on the run and arrested in Gqeberha the following day. He abandoned his bail application on Monday 29 May 2023 in the Rouxville Magistrate’s Court. He will remain in custody and the case was postponed to 3 July 2023 for further investigation.

Between 5 and 8 May 2023 three were arrested for their alleged involvement in a house robbery and a murder committed at Geluk Farm in the Kroonstad District. Mr Sera Letuka (22) Sandie Kheliwe (36) and Lesole Poulo (37) applied for bail in the Kroonstad Magistrates Court. They were denied bail and will remain in custody. They will appear again on 6 June 2023.

It is alleged that the two suspects entered the house of a farmer at Geluk Farm at about 18:44 on 30 April 2023. Upon entry, they found the two couples in the house, pointed a firearm at them and robbed them of their three cellphones, wrist watches and an undisclosed amount of money. The suspects further locked all four victims inside the house, fleeing the scene on foot. On their way from the primary scene at about 20:00, they came across another couple that was walking from Kroonstad towards Geluk Farm. They stopped the couple and demanded money. Thereafter, they fired a shot at the 41-year-old male, who they searched and took his cellphone whilst the wife ran off. The duo further fled the scene on foot towards the main road, where they got inside their getaway car, which was waiting for them.

On 17 May 2023 at about 20:30, Mr Adames Paulus Stemmett (54), his wife and her friend came home to The Heights Farm, Senekal. They were overpowered and robbed of three firearms, jewellery, cellphones and cash. Shortly thereafter, Fokotho Tlaitlai (37) was arrested and a large amount of cash was found on him. The alleged getaway vehicle was parked next to the road, not far from the farm. Nthabiseng Mokwena (33) was the driver and she was arrested.

Upon further investigation, an Uzzi firearm and vehicle keys of the victims were found outside the yard of the farm. The search continued the following day, when the police recovered some more of the stolen items. They recovered two 9mm pistols, two airguns, a gas pistol, food, clothes, a cellphone and jewellery. The two abandoned bail and will appear again on 30 June 2023.

On 31 May 2023 information about other suspects linked to this incident was followed up and police went to the identified houses in Hani Park, Bronville. Four were arrested and linked with the Senekal robbery. The police found a camera bag and a memory card in their possession and seized them, which were positively identified by the farmer. One of the four suspects was found in possession of a 9mm pistol with the serial number filed off. Khabele Nyane (39), Katiso Mahamo (27) and Pusetso Monyamane (31) made their first appearance on 2 May 2023 in the Senekal Magistrate’s Court. The case remanded till 9 June 2023 for bail information. Makalo Mabote (39) first appeared in the Welkom Magistrates Court for the illegal possession of firearm and ammunition and case also remanded till 9 June 2023.

On 27 May 2023 at about 00:30, the police were called to a small holding at Oranjeville, where the Van Biljon family is staying. It is alleged that six armed men entered the house and as Mr André van Biljon (70) tried to call for backup from other farmers on a radio, the perpetrators fired several shots. Mr Van Biljon sustained gunshot wounds to the chest and hand. His son, Mr Lukas van Biljon (47), was also attacked and the perpetrators stabbed him several times with a knife. They also tied the children with cable ties.

The suspects fled with a Range Rover which was recovered on Strydom Street in Oranjeville. The suspects fled in a Toyota Camry when they saw the blue lights of the police. An activation plan involving surrounding police and farmers blocked off all roads and at a roadblock at Viljoensdrift, the vehicle was stopped. Khanye Muthi (32) and Latin Mofokeng (42) were arrested and the vehicle was also confiscated. Mr André van Biljon passed away in hospital on 30 May 2023 and the charge of attempted murder was changed to murder. The suspects appeared again on 5 June 2023 and all charges were withdrawn against the two suspects as they could not be linked to the incident.

On Saturday, 27 May 2023 at about 08:00 a sheep herder, Mr Hlompo Patrick Phale (33), was killed and suspects took about 98 sheep. Zamdela police opened a case of murder and stock theft and investigations were launched. The Provincial Organized Crime Unit took over the investigation and in less than 48 hours, through intelligence-led information, three suspects aged between 33 and 41 were arrested in Randfontein, Gauteng. They recovered 18 of the stolen sheep. The suspects will appear in the Sasolburg Magistrate Court on Thursday 8 June 2023. Three more suspects were arrested in Sasolburg and will appear in court today.

In another breakthrough, two years after a farmer, Mr Mark Regal (50), was reportedly shot dead, a suspect could be linked to the incident through DNA evidence. He was killed on his father's farm, Thelma, in Odendaalsrus on 11 November 2023 and one of the attackers was killed during a farm attack. Khulekani Kaizer Mthethwa (45) was traced, and it was found that he was still an awaiting trial prisoner in a business robbery committed in Odendaalsrus. He has been in detention since 2021 for this business robbery. He appeared in court on Friday 2 June 2023 for a formal bail application. He abandoned bail and had his case remanded until 29 June 2023 for further investigations.

The Acting Provincial Commissioner of the Police in the Free State, Major General Len Singh, applauded the members of the SAPS and the farming community, who worked hand in hand to apprehend these suspects. "Members have worked tirelessly to apprehend these suspects and worked hard behind the scenes to do all they can to keep the perpetrators behind bars. These successes are also a showcase of how perpetrators can be brought to book through partnership policing."