Paraplegic in court over hijackings

CAPE ARGUS

by Norman Joseph – Crime Reporter

A WHEELCHAIR-bound paraplegic of Guteng was allegedly the mastermind behind three hijackings involving cigarettes worth R2.2million. Police have alleged that Selwyn Winston de Vries, 36, of Ennerdale in Johannesburg organised the crimes committed in Rawsonville, Yzerfontein and Kinkelbos. Yesterday, De Vries appeared with his brother Vigel Lennith, 26, and nine other men in the Cape Town Regional Court. Several years ago De Vries was shot and wounded during an attempted armed robbery in Johannesburg, near his home, after which he was left a paraplegic. He owns several taxis in his hometown and areas around Johannesburg. His brother, Vigel Lennith, owns a panel-beating and spray-painting shop in ennerdale. Information from an accomplice in the hijacking cases led police to arrest the brothers at their homes in Ennerdale. All the men face allegations of hijacking three truckloads of cigarettes, as well as the the trucks. The cigarettes all belonged to the British American Tobacco Company. The first load was hijacked in June last year in Rawsonville near Worcester, the second in Yzerfontein near Darling in August, and the third in Kenkelbos, Eastern Cape, in October. It is alleged that the cigarettes were taken to a Pretoria house, which apparently belonged to a friend of one of the accused, from where they were sold. Yesterday, it took five hours for the court to postpone the case. Kenilworth attorney William Booth, appearing for the De Vries brothers, and city attorney Ben Mathewson, appearing for the rest of the men, objected to not receiving copies of the charge sheets and case dockets. Booth and Mathewson said their clients couldn’t be charged under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act, as stated by state prosecutor Advocate Helene booysen. “They can’t be charged for all the crimes unless the national directorate of public prosecutions gives permission,” Booth said. Booth said he was in favour of having the charges amalgamated and tried in the Cape High Court. He told the court that Sylwyn Winston de Vries was a diabetic, and required two dozen injections of insulin per week. He also said de Vries’s brother Vigel had hurt his leg when he fell recently, and also needed medical attention. He asked that the brothers be kept at the Goodwood Prison where there were medical facilities, instead of at Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai. Booysen told regional court magistrte Pam Naidoo that the investigating officer in the cases, Detective Inspector van Aarde Heydenrych of the Western Cape Serious Violent Crims Unit, had died in a motor vehicle accident in Kuils River last week. Naidoo postponed the case to July 20 to allow police to appoint a new investigating officer to peruse the seven case dockets, and said the court could arrange a bail application hearing. Booth said he had unsuccessfully applied for bail in Malmesbury Magistrate’s Court on behalf of the De Vries brothers. He had appealed against the court ruling, and would apply again. The men have been charged under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act and could each face 30 years behind bars on each of the cases, or face fines totalling R100million.