Gang murder trial set to go ahead despite death of student in northern areas ambush
The devastated sister of a young northern areas man who was executed – the star state witness in a gang murder case – has told how a mortician had to stop her from counting the bullet wounds on her youngest brother’s body last week.
“I counted seven before the mortician stopped me,” Claudia Collins said yesterday. “His killers wanted to make sure he was dead.” The murder case in which Alex-Nico Ferreira, 27, was a Section 204 witness, involving two suspected gang members and a policeman who allegedly provided them with the gun, will proceed to trial despite his execution.
While the prosecution has conceded that Ferreira’s killing is a major setback for their case, his death has also been his family’s biggest cross to bear.
“This is what happens to kids in the northern areas,” Collins, 40, said.
Ferreira was gunned down 2km from his parents’ Bethelsdorp home on the morning of February 21, just three months before he was due to testify against suspected gang members Enzo Kroates and Clement Kogana.
One of his alleged shooters, Wayne “Doefie” Wabanie, appeared briefly in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
“The pending case was eating away at him [Ferreira],” an emotional Collins said.
“It is not uncommon for witnesses to be silenced. It speaks to the situation in the northern areas.
“And in this matter there is a policeman [allegedly] involved. Corruption is the rotten underbelly of gangsterism in our neighbourhood.
“His murder was the devil’s doing, but God allowed it to happen, we just don’t understand why yet.”
Eastern Cape Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Indra Goberdan said although Ferreira’s death was a setback in the case, other evidence enabled the state to continue with the prosecution.
Ferreira had given Kroates, 22, and Kogana, 29, a lift on October 26 2014, when they allegedly opened fire on suspected rival gang member Denton Rademeyer, 24.
Constable Walter Francis, 29, who was stationed at the Humewood crime prevention unit at the time, allegedly provided his official firearm and several rounds of ammunition for the shooting.
The men are due back in the Port Elizabeth High Court on Friday, when a trial date will be set.
Shortly after their arrest, Ferreira turned state witness. Not keen on going into protective custody, he moved to Durban.
But 14 months later, in December 2015, he visited his family in Port Elizabeth for Christmas and decided to stay. “His life had been placed on hold for over a year,” Collins said.
“He wanted to come back and study, to be with his family.”
Ferreira was studying for an electrical engineering degree and was in his final year.
“He felt the worst of it had blown over,” his sister said.
“He said he would just keep a low profile. He thought he would be fine.”
Collins said Ferreira was somewhat of a giant, at more than 2m in height, but had the gentlest heart.
On the day of his murder, Ferreira was lured out of his parents’ house, where he lived, by a woman carrying a toddler who said she needed a lift.
As he stopped a short distance from the house, at least two men opened fire on him.
The woman fled with the child.
“The state was unaware that Mr Ferreira had, in fact, come back to Port Elizabeth and only learnt after his death that he had returned to PE in [about] January last year,” Goberdan said.
He had never been offered protective custody because he had never raised any concerns that his life was in danger.
“Any witness who has reason to believe that his safety may be threatened may apply to be placed under witness protection,” Goberdan said.
Ferreira’s alleged killer will have an opportunity to apply for bail on March 15.