Africa-Press – South-Africa. A South African suspect wanted in connection with the 2014 murder of two Irish nationals says he fears that he will be killed if he’s extradited.
Neville van der Westhuizen, 41, appeared in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday for an extradition inquiry.
In November last year, Interpol working with local law enforcement authorities tracked Van der Westhuizen to the Westville Correctional Facility where he was serving three of a 15-year-sentence for murder.
According to Irish authorities, Van der Westhuizen and his lover, Ruth Lawrence, a 42-year-old Irish national, killed two friends in that country before fleeing to South Africa.
Lawrence was arrested in October 2022 in Bloemfontein and was deported to Ireland in May this year.
Court proceedings kicked off on a dramatic note as legal aid defence attorney Ntando Cele called for the matter to be adjourned by at least six weeks so he could consult with Van der Westhuizen, as well as conduct research on two affidavits that were recently discovered.
“The affidavits are dated 17 and 18 August 2023, yet they were only discovered [by] the defence on 18 September 2023, three days before this inquiry,” he said.
Cele alleged that the State deliberately delayed handing over the documents to the defence. He also said he had not had time to consult with his client.
He said since the affidavits were deposed in another jurisdiction, research would need to be conducted for his client to respond.
State prosecutor Naveen Sewpersad opposed the call for a postponement and said the defence had ample time to go through the affidavits.
“I should caution my learned friend to choose his words carefully. The claim that the State withheld crucial information is unfounded,” Sewpersad continued.
The prosecutor complained that the matter had been on the court roll for close to a year, and another postponement would further derail it.
After a back-and-forth between the State and the defence, the magistrate, noting the numerous delays in the matter, ruled against the postponement and ordered the State to start the case.
Sewpersad alerted the court that they had received diplomatic chain letters from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation as well as an original extradition request from Irish authorities.
The defence was then given an opportunity to detail its reasons for opposing the extradition request.
“My client is already serving a sentence in this country. It won’t make any sense for him to be taken to another country to stand trial while he is still in our prison system,” Cele said.
Sewpersad dismissed both reasons given by Cele to oppose the extradition request.
He said SA’s legal system made room for convicts to be extradited to other countries to stand trial and that the threats against Van der Westhuizen were vague.
The matter was rolled over to Friday for Cele to consult with Van der Westhuizen.