AN INQUEST into the death of notorious armed robber, Shepherd Mhizha, alias Major Sanyati, who died in police custody, has ruled out foul play.

In his findings, Bulawayo Regional Magistrate Chrispen Mberewere pointed out that there was no evidence linking any individual to Mhizha's death. Mhizha, a jail escapee, was shot and killed on July 27, 2011, near Khami Dam during indications with CID detectives.

Top lawyer Josphat Tshuma, representing Mhizha's family, said evidence given by the two detectives in whose custody Mhizha died was hard to believe.

"The evidence of the police officers regarding the circumstances under which they shot and killed the deceased are totally unconvincing. It's quite probable that frustrated with his conduct and noticing that the now deceased was seriously injured, the police may have shot him," Tshuma said.

Giving evidence, the two detectives said they shot at Mhizha after he unearthed a pistol and fired shots at them, prompting them to lie on the ground and open fire on him.

Tshuma said evidence by the two detectives cannot be trusted as they were avoiding incriminating themselves.

"It is highly improbable, if not ridiculous for the police officer who had leg ironed the deceased and handcuffed him when they went for identification of firearms, to uncuff him when they arrived. There is no reasonable explanation at all which was advanced by the police why they had to uncuff him when he only had to point to a spot where he had hidden firearms," he said.

Tshuma said claims by the police that they trusted Mhizha enough to uncuff him did not hold water as they knew how dangerous he was.

However, Magistrate Mberewere said there was no evidence showing that Mhizha was deliberately uncuffed.

"We are not able to find that any person was culpable in the death of the said Mhizha. There is no evidence proving that police deliberately uncuffed him so as to shoot back. Neither is there evidence proving that they allowed him to dash for safety so as to shoot him. There is no causal link between the negligence and shooting. His was an unfortunate death as a result of gross negligence and a serious dereliction of duty. It was also a failure to meet minimum standards of securing a dangerous individual. These are our findings and it is recommended that the matter be closed as such," said Mberewere.

Mhizha had been implicated in 22 armed robberies in Bulawayo and was also wanted in Harare for escaping from custody using forged papers.

In 2005, he was jailed for 20 years together with two accomplices, who died in prison, for a string of armed robberies in Harare.

He was a former husband to Tafadzwa Mapako, who later married Alick Macheso. She and Macheso divorced recently. Tafadzwa is alleged to have had two failed marriages before she married Macheso in 2010. Her first marriage was to a teacher named Thomas Mayisiwa Matsapa in 1996 when she finished her O-levels. She had one child in the marriage before separating with him and moving to Harare to search for 'greener pastures'. Her second was to the serial armed robber Shepherd Mhizha.

Mhizha was arrested and detained at the Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in 2005. Known as Major Sanyati Samanenji in robbing circles, Mhizha was sentenced to 20 years in prison for various armed robbery cases together with two of his accomplices.

Mhizha served part of the sentence at Chikurubi Maximum Prison but got out of jail after a bogus Harare lawyer, George Simbi, secured his release as well as that of eight other suspected armed robbers and carjackers from prison in 2009 using fake High Court release orders.

When the robber was unscrupulously released from prison, his relationship with Tafadzwa Macheso would be on and off as Major Sanyati was always on the move terrorising people.

Once out, Mhizha allegedly went on to commit other armed robberies in Bulawayo's affluent suburbs, getting away with mostly cash and jewellery. In 2011, he was short dead by the police.

It was also reported that during their divorce, Tafadzwa threatened musician Alick Macheso many times telling him she had links with the most powerful people including members of the dreaded Central Intelligence Organisation and even R & B star, Akon. Tafadzwa reportedly also told Macheso that she was in good books with notorious robbers who were friends with her late ex-husband Major Sanyati.

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