Trial by Facebook? Suspects found guilty on social media

Some comments on Facebook regarding the suspects who were arrested for the three murders in Krugersdorp recently.

It would seem that the alleged murderers of three Krugersdorp residents have been judged already, in “a trial by social media” and that the two suspects have already been sentenced to death by the “jury”, otherwise known as Facebook users.

Following the brief appearance of two suspects, aged 29 and 32, in court on Monday, 6 June, the community of Krugersdorp took to social media where they expressed their disgust for the police and the Krugersdorp Magistrates’ Court by making all sorts of unverified accusations.

Most comments read along the lines of “Hang the b*#tards”, “No bail” and “Bring back the death penalty”.

However, some comments suggested that residents knew the finer details of the case, and even claimed that one of the suspects took the police to the site where the murders were committed.

According to other posts on Facebook, more than a few residents have alleged that a necklace was found on one of the suspects, and that he is linked to other murders in Krugersdorp.

Other comments suggested that stolen items were found in the possession of the suspects, and some went as far as accusing one suspect of being the mastermind behind the murders, based on his own Facebook posts.

Since the hype surrounding the murders, residents have also posted messages about a green Corsa driving about, with its occupants photographing the “For sale” signboards of various estate agents.

The News has contacted the police regarding the information being plastered all over Facebook. The police have repeatedly denied the content of these comments, saying that none of the allegations could be confirmed by any officer involved in the case.

The comments do however show how hard the community of Krugersdorp has been hit by these recent brutal murders.

The public is asked to take note that publishing unconfirmed information on social media may not only interfere with the police’s investigation; there are other implications, for example Facebook users can be charged with defeating the ends of justice, or possibly face a civil charge.

Christo Swart, a local lawyer and friend of the News, has confirmed that suspects are innocent until proven guilty, saying “Although the community’s reaction is understandable, we must try not to run ahead of the case.”

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Marizka Coetzer

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