Thursday 19 September 2019

Murder accused says he stabbed Irish charity worker 26 times in self-defence

Irish charity worker John Curran
Irish charity worker John Curran

Jamie Pyatt

The man accused of murdering Irishman John Curran in South Africa has admitted stabbing the charity worker 26 times, but claimed he was acting in self-defence.

Congolese national Mitspa Onyoka (25) was not granted bail at a court hearing yesterday, five months after Mr Curran (60) was found stabbed to death at his apartment in Cape Town.

Cape Town magistrates heard Mr Curran was stabbed 26 times in the head, neck, chest and back, and had suffered blunt trauma injuries to his body. He had also been strangled so violently that the thyroid bones on both sides of his neck had been broken, and he had grazes and contusions "consistent with a struggle".

Mr Onyoka, who was a cleaner at nightclub the Fantasy Lounge in Cape Town, was arrested several weeks after Mr Curran's body was found on November 7 last year. He has since been held at the notorious Pollsmoor Prison where he claimed his life was in danger.

Defence barrister Anthony Berinato, in applying for bail, gave an account of how Mr Curran and illegal immigrant Mr Onyoka came to know each other.

He put before magistrate Vusi Mhlanga a sworn affidavit in which he said his client had been befriended by Mr Curran in the nightclub.

Murder accused Mitspa Onyoka, who was filmed on CCTV in a lift at Mr Curran’s apartment
Murder accused Mitspa Onyoka, who was filmed on CCTV in a lift at Mr Curran’s apartment building

He claimed Mr Curran offered to get him a job as a car dealer, so he went to his apartment alone, where he claims he was drugged and Mr Curran attempted to rape him.

His affidavit detailed how he saw a knife on the table and "began stabbing him".

"He became very angry and began to choke me. I stabbed him again with the knife and he stopped choking me," Mr Onyoka said.

Mr Onyoka, who is charged with murder, told the court he had no idea what he had done to Mr Curran or if he was dead or alive, saying he fled out the door and down the lift.

The cleaner was arrested later that month at work after CCTV images taken in the lift at the apartment block were released by police.

He continued in his affidavit: "I was acting in self-defence...I will not flee bail as I want to prove in court I am not guilty."

Warrant officer Shaun Bardien, who is attached to Cape Town Central CID, said Mr Onyoka's bloodied fingerprints on a knife, and footprints and CCTV footage placed him inside the flat and leaving the apartment, and he admitted being there.

He said the state would contest Mr Onyoka's version of events in "due course" but said the bail hearing was "not the time or place" to do so, but was to ensure bail was refused.

"If he fled across the border he would be very difficult, if not impossible, to trace. It is essential for justice to be done that he remains in custody until his trial," Mr Bardien said.

He opposed bail and said Mr Onyoka would be a "flight risk" if released.

He told the court the accused man was an illegal immigrant with no family or property ties to South Africa and was facing extremely serious charges and must remain in prison.

Mr Berinato argued: "I submit my client has put forward a strong defence as there was clearly a struggle and fight and my client feared being a victim of rape.

"He fought back in self-­defence and that is consistent with the post-mortem report," he said.

Prosecutor Johan Swart replied: "Being stabbed 26 times does not suggest self-defence."

Mr Mhlanga denied the accused bail and sent him back to Pollsmoor Prison until the next hearing on May 16.

He said bail was not being granted to Mr Onyoka "in the interests of justice".

Mr Onyoka told the court he had fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in fear of his life as he had demonstrated against the government and if he returned he could be killed.

His lawyer confirmed Mr Onyoka was an illegal immigrant but checks in the DRC and South Africa showed he had no previous convictions or pending convictions against him.

Mr Onyoka said he feared for his life in Pollsmoor Prison.

"Drugs are rife and I am at the mercy of the gangs and if I remain in detention I may lose my life as I am not a violent person and I am not able to defend myself in there," he said.

Irish Independent

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