Accused in gay murders to appear in court

Months of procedural delays could cause the case to be struck off the roll.

The first eight victims of the serial killers who target gay men.

JOHANNESBURG - Three men believed to be part of a gang linked to the murders of eight gay men across Gauteng and Cape Town are set to appear in court on Thursday.

There is a possibility that months of procedural delays could cause the case to be struck off the roll.

The trio, Maxwell Nyathi, Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Bheki Maseko, were arrested for the murder of Barney van Heerden, who was found strangled in his home in September 2011, having invited in the killers who he appears to have met online.

His is just one of at least eight similar murders in Gauteng, with police announcing in November they believe a gang is responsible, whose members may have committed similar crimes in Cape Town as well.

At the trio's last appearance at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court, the court was told that blood reports were still outstanding, and the investigation was still not complete.

Magistrate Paul Du Plessis' voice reverberated through the court when he angrily told prosecutors this was not acceptable, and that should the investigation still not be complete by April 18, he would strike the case off the roll.

Van Heerden's sister Anchen Jooste, cousin Cecile Brody, and close friend Angus MacArthur, were horrified at the thought of Nyathi, Ndlovu and Maseko's release, and stormed the Norwood police station, which has facilitated investigations into all eight murders in Gauteng.

While top cops at Norwood insisted there was no chance the case would be thrown out of court, they were unable to explain why no further arrests for the other seven victims, or their Capetonian counterparts had been made.

This morning, Van Heerden's friends and family are expected to be in court, to hear if the three men's case will indeed be transferred to the Johannesburg High Court, as previously announced - or whether they will be set free.

Dawie Nel, director of OUT, a Pretoria-based gay rights group, said police were sluggish in their investigation because of the sexuality of the victims.

POSSIBLE 9TH VICTIM

Meanwhile, a ninth victim of the gang was also identified after he was found dead in his home on Monday morning.

Dr Carl Mischke, a professor at the University of Johannesburg, was found face down on his bed in a pool of blood on Monday morning, after having allegedly invited in his killer or killers.

His naked body was covered by a duvet, hiding the multiple stab wounds that led to his death.

The Norwood resident's death bears the hallmarks of eight other murders of gay men across Gauteng, and police have confirmed that his death will be investigated alongside the other eight victims.