Judge John Murphy said the handyman changed the times that he apparently saw Maqubela in the basement of his apartment block the morning of his death in 2009.
“His evidence is tainted by contradictions and shortcomings… A single witness must be treated with caution.”
Murphy said that while he cast no aspersions on the handyman’s character, human memory was often fallible.
He was reading his lengthy judgment in the trial of Maqubela’s wife Thandi and her co-accused Vela Mabena.
They have pleaded not guilty to suffocating Patrick Maqubela with cling-wrap in his apartment in Sea Point, Cape Town, on Friday June 5, 2009. His body was discovered that Sunday afternoon.
She has also denied guilt on fraud and forgery charges related to a document she claims is her husband’s will.
Murphy questioned the testimony of a security guard who allowed Mabena into the apartment block that Friday, apparently to collect a book from Thandi Maqubela.
The guard testified that he spoke to the acting judge over the intercom before letting Mabena in. He testified that the acting judge responded: “Send him”.
The court said this conflicted with the guard’s statement to the police, in which he said the acting judge had said: “Let him in. He is my friend”.
Murphy said the guard’s description of Mabena and his cars changed after he was questioned by the police.
“The fact that he submitted to police pressure and coaching means he was likely coached too about when he saw accused two [Mabena].”
The court rejected his testimony and said the last contact with the acting judge was a conversation he had with a friend that Thursday night.
“There is no evidence of any person, apart from accused one [Maqubela], who saw or spoke to the deceased after that time.”
Access cards to the apartment block could not provide sufficient evidence of people’s movements, because doors were sometimes left open. CCTV footage of exits was also not helpful.
“As fate would have it, these were not working properly from Thursday to Monday. As a result, no footage was available,” Murphy said.