PRETORIA June 1 1998 - SAPA


Former Civil Co-Operation Bureau agent Ferdi Barnard was on Monday convicted of murdering anti-apartheid activist David Webster and attempting to murder Justice Minister Dullah Omar.

Barnard was unanimously convicted by Pretoria High Court Judge Johan Els and two assessors, Mr FJ Mostert and Mr E van Rensburg, on 25 charges. These included two murder charges, two of attempted murder and various charges relating to fraudulent transactions and the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.

He was acquitted on a further nine charges, including two attempted murder charges, because of a lack of evidence.

Barnard, who was dressed in a dark suit and green shirt, looked relaxed and afterwards told reporters that he expected the ruling. He said he was also expecting a long prison term.

Barnard said the conviction did not really change his situation as he would be returning to Pretoria maximum prison, where he was already serving a ten-year sentence.

He said he had adapted to prison life because "that's how the human spirit works". He was more worried about his family than about himself because he could take care of himself, he said.

Webster's companion of many years, Maggie Freedman, expressed delight and relief at Barnard's conviction.

"I hope this will give hope to other people who've been waiting for years for justice in other cases," she said.

Els briefly summed up his written judgment of over 200 pages before convicting Barnard.

He said the case basically turned on credibility. Most of the State witnesses, including Barnard's former wife and several of his former girlfriends, were found to be credible witnesses, while Barnard was described as a highly unsatisfactory witness.

The judge said Barnard was clearly an intelligent person who had the ability to present lies in such a way as to make them sound like the truth. He admitted that he would tell lies to a court if he thought he could get away with it and had in fact told lies about trivial matters.

In court, Barnard for the first time admitted that he knew all along that the purpose for his monitoring Omar was to have him killed.

Els said it was clear that Barnard intended killing Omar himself, and that he was stopped by unforeseen circumstances.

Els found that Barnard confessed Webster's murder to 11 State witnesses without being forced to do so, and that he also confessed to murdering one of his business acquaintances, Mark Frances, to several witnesses.

The judge said there was adequate corroboration of the evidence of State witnesses to convict Barnard of Webster's murder.

Barnard was a man who clearly "talked too much", he said, adding it was highly unlikely that Barnard would have made such confessions to the witnesses if they were not the truth.

Els found that Barnard killed Webster and Frances with direct intent.

He said it was clear that Barnard wanted to improve his standing in the CCB by killing Omar. The court was satisfied that he was in fact planning to murder Omar.

The court rejected Barnard's version that he merely provided "security" during several fraudulent transactions involving diamonds and foreign currency. It was clear that he played a major role in the transactions and that he defrauded several people, including a Pretoria attorney.

The case was postponed to Wednesday at the defence's request. It is not yet known if Barnard will testify in mitigation of sentence.

South African Press Association, 1998
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