Botanical gardens drugs link in student abduction case

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Regular rendezvous between students and their dagga supplier in the Makana Botanical Gardens, allegations of a detective’s vendetta and questions about security camera footage from Pepper Grove mall have provided colourful testimony in the case of the alleged kidnapping and robbery of a Rhodes student in April 2018.

Just over two weeks ago, the court finally heard Rhodes University student Ryan Morley’s shocking testimony in which he described being abducted in the Makhanda (Grahamstown) CBD at knifepoint and taken to a house near Albany Road, where he said he was forced to smoke drugs.

In his account of what happened on the night of 11 April 2018, Morley said he’d been held against his will and instructed to call his parents or a friend to send money. Among the more vivid details Morley shared was that the name of the first accused, Jamie de Jager, had been written in red paint on the wall of the room where he’d been held, and that the second accused, Andre du Plessis, had swung a rock in a sock to intimidate him. He’d waited for the men to fall asleep before fleeing barefoot and empty handed from the house in the middle of the night, Morley told the court.

Testifying in this matter for the first time in the Regional Court in Makhanda on Monday 11 March, almost a year after the alleged incident, first accused Jamie de Jager denied everything, and suggested instead that Morley’s testimony was fabricated to support the detective’s efforts to have him convicted.

De Jager denied abducting Morley or forcing him to smoke drugs. However, he spoke about a second student whose allegations against him and Du Plessis mirrored those of Morley. Additional counts of kidnapping and robbery against De Jager and Du Plessis were withdrawn when the second alleged victim failed to arrive at court to testify. In that case, De Jager had been identified in footage from security cameras at Pepper Grove Mall.

De Jager had known that second student, he said. “He usually sent me to buy dagga and we used to smoke together,” De Jager said through the court  translator. In Afrikaans, he said, “I would usually meet him at the botanical gardens.”

The Makana Botanical Gardens, De Jager said, was where he’d also met Morley. “That’s where they call me to bring them dagga,” said De Jager.

In the men’s last appearance, the defence questioned details of the identity parade in which De Jager and Du Plessis were identified as suspects. This time, De Jager claimed the detective had a vendetta against him because of previous acquittals.

On 14 March, the defence requested a postponement to 27 March, in order to research an aspect of the testimony. The men remain in custody.

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