‘Snake catcher’ gets 30 years behind bars: I was chasing a King Cobra and it went into…

File Picture: Snake catcher

In a stark warning to would-be criminals targeting vital infrastructure, a South African man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for stealing Telkom cellphone tower batteries worth R36,000.

The convicted perpetrator, Tinos Ndebele, was found guilty of tampering with and stealing from essential infrastructure, a crime that has seen a worrying surge in recent years.

The incident occurred on June 8, 2023, when an alarm was triggered at a Telkom tower in Roodewal, Free State. Upon arrival, officials discovered extensive damage to the site, including broken fence, a forced-open door, and a missing container holding 12 batteries.

A police forensic team was called, and fingerprints at the scene were lifted and matched to Ndebele.

Despite his claims of chasing a King Cobra into the container, which he said explained his fingerprints at the scene, the court was not convinced.

“The fingerprints lifted matched those of the accused. Through diligent police investigations, the accused was traced and arrested.

“In his defence during the trial, the accused explained that he was a snake catcher and on the said date he was chasing a King Cobra and the snake went into the container. This explained why his fingerprints were found at the crime scene,” he said.

Prosecutor Petro van den Berg argued forcefully for the maximum sentence, underscoring the grave threat that crimes against essential infrastructure pose to the economy and public safety.

In a stern verdict, the Bloemfontein Regional Court sentenced Ndebele to 20 years for tampering with infrastructure and an additional 15 years for the theft, with five years to run concurrently, resulting in a total of 30 years behind bars.

This ruling serves as a stark warning to anyone considering targeting the country’s vital communication networks and power supplies. The heavy sentence reflects the judiciary’s determination to protect South Africa’s critical infrastructure and the livelihoods that depend on it.

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