BULLETPROOF vests and automatic guns filled the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday as the man accused of murdering an infamous gang leader and drug dealer made his first appearance.
Prior to Elgeswhin Goliath, 27, making a brief appearance in connection with the murder of Donovan “Staal” Berry, 47, the state asked that court proceedings be held in camera due to the case’s sensitivity. The media could attend. The gallery benches were cleared of all members of the public, with eight heavily armed members of the tactical response team (TRT) taking the seats.
Goliath was arrested in North End on Friday and is believed to be the triggerman behind the execution of Berry on May 3.
He is facing a charge of murder, and told the court yesterday that he had no previous convictions or pending cases.
Shot at 31 times, Berry died in a hail of bullets shortly after he was dropped off in Barberry Street, Bloemendal.
Police insiders said Berry had been a high-ranking member of the Dustlifes gang.
Speaking to The Herald outside the court, the prosecutor, who asked not to be named, said she preferred to conduct proceedings in camera to avoid possible intimidation between the accused and members of the public.
“Sometimes in the past an accused would enter the court and members of an opposing gang [would be] in the gallery,” she said.
“This leads to chirps and intimidation, especially in a case like this where the man is accused of murdering a wellknown gangster.
“And as much as the TRT are present, things can escalate very quickly so I prefer to just avoid it altogether.”
There have been several gang-related incidents in and around the court this year.
The most recent ended in the death of a suspected gangster who was gunned down while travelling to court.
The shooting happened during mid-morning traffic on May 17 at the intersection of Darling Street and Govan Mbeki Avenue in North End, just 600m from the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court.
It left suspected gangster Cheslyn Jaggers, 31, dead and two others injured, while a fourth occupant of the bulletriddled blue VW Citi Golf escaped unharmed.
Goliath’s case was postponed to May 30 to allow for the state and his attorney to agree on a suitable date for his formal bail application.
The state will oppose bail.