Wednesday 13 February saw the start of the bail hearing for Sean Kelly (51) – the man charged with the murder of Noreen Hampson, of Sedgefield, on Saturday 2 February 2019. Both were residents of Marigold Street in Groenvlei.
Before the hearing began Sedgefield residents joined others outside the Knysna Magistrates Court in silent protest against bail for Kelly, who many claimed was a danger to society on account of his violent behaviour on the day of the murder, when he allegedly attacked several other people aside from Mrs Hampson, as well as smashing vehicles and other private property.
As the Investigating Officer Sergeant Vusumzi Xokozela arrived at court he was met by Sedgefield COP representatives Mike Hofhuis and Michael Simon, who presented him with a petition which included signatures from 1880 locals. They also handed over print-outs of an online petition signed by over 2500 people.
Knysna Magistrate Zukiswa Hans presided over the case, with Attorney Zulile Mqulo acting for the prosecution.
A number of Sedgefield residents filed into the courtroom, including some who lived near the victim, and others who had attended the scene and witnessed Kelly’s violent actions first hand.
At 12.09 am Sean Kelly was called and was escorted into the courtroom, staring into the gallery as he made his way to the dock. He was immediately admonished by Magistrate Hans for doing this. When Kelly replied that he was looking for members of his family she was adamant. “This is not a fashion show,” she said, “You don’t do that.”
Kelly waited, seated in the courtroom for about 40 minutes whilst other cases were heard. When his case was finally announced his Legal Aid representative asked that it be held over until 2pm as her offices wanted a senior practitioner to handle the hearing. The Magistrate agreed, but on return a further postponement was requested in order that Kelly’s more senior Legal Aid representative, Pieter Terblanche, could be briefed.
The Magistrate reluctantly agreed to once again postpone the hearing. This time to 8.30 the following morning.
Due to various delays, the case only began at 11.10 the next day, at which time Terblanche announced that Kelly had not passed the ‘means test’ necessary to qualify for legal aid. Kelly then confirmed his decision to handle his own bail hearing without the assistance of an attorney. Magistrate Hans cautioned him that as it was a bail hearing, he did not have to answer questions on the merits of the actual case as whatever he said could be used against him when the case is heard.
After taking the oath Kelly began outlining his testimony to the court.
He informed the court that he is single, and has been resident in Sedgefield for four years, living with his dog and cat. His father is deceased and his mother living in Joburg, though he no longer has a relationship with her. He has a BA Law degree and lived in the United States from1997 to 2014, where he worked in the building industry. He is currently unemployed.
As requested by Magistrate Hans, Kelly then went on to provide reasons why he believed the court should approve his application for bail.
Kelly explained that his two biggest concerns were his home, which he felt was in danger of vandalism or a break-in, and his animals. When speaking about his dog and his cat, the 51 year old man became quite emotional, saying that he regards them as ‘spiritual beings’ both of whom are very important to him. At one stage he began crying, and, after offering him some water, Magistrate Hans paused proceedings and allowed Kelly to sit whilst she quickly dealt with two or three minor cases on the court roll.
Twenty minutes later Kelly proceeded with his application. He said he had been alarmed when, whilst in custody, he had been asked to sign a form relinquishing rights to his dog, which he believes to be illegal. He said he should be given bail so that he can be reunited with his animals, and should he be found guilty, he can find them homes of his choice.
A third reason Kelly offered was that he needs to get his finances in order. Apart from gaining access to funds that he claimed he has in America, he also wished to make contact with his brother in Australia to ask him for assistance.
He continually assured the court that he was no danger to society.
“If I am released on bail the plan is to go home and stay at home, just going out to get food,” he said “I will face the music. I will not run. I have a cat and a dog who are very important to me.”
Kelly then informed the Magistrate that he intends to plead ‘not guilty’ to all the charges, adding that he is innocent until proven guilty, and that he will not be a flight risk as his passports have been taken away from him.
When his testimony was concluded, Prosecutor Zulile Mqulo began his cross-examination by saying he could not fathom that it could be acceptable for someone charged with murder to be released on bail ‘to look after a dog and a cat’
When he asked Kelly about his violent behaviour during his arrest, Kelly chose to remain silent.
The Prosecutor pushed further, saying that guns had had to be used on the day of his arrest. Kelly said that the first responder had arrived and threatened him with a gun, saying “I am going to kill you” then shot at him numerous times. Kelly then accused one of the neighbourhood watch members of trying to run him down, saying that he will open a case of attempted murder against him.
When the Prosecutor pointed out that it was because Kelly was still brandishing the hammer that force had to be used to overcome him, Kelly calmly replied that the version of the story the Prosecutor had was not the truth, and that he had, in fact, reacted in self-defence. He admitted, however, that he had resisted arrest, and that he had been carrying a hammer.
“That is why you are a danger to society,” the Prosecutor said. When Kelly began to reply to this, Magistrate Hans reminded him that if he chose to answer questions on the merits of the actual case, whatever he said could be used against him when the case is heard.
Kelly said that the Prosecutor was lying – and telling ‘bogus’ stories.
Prosecutor Mqulo then put it to Kelly that key witnesses to the case were fearful of being approached by him should he be released on bail. He said that the Investigating Officer on the day had reported that he had never seen such aggression.
Kelly once again stated that his actions had been in self-defence and that he would be opening cases of attempted murder against a few of those who were on the scene.
“Since my arrest I have been well mannered and well behaved. I have been taunted but have turned the other cheek,” he concluded.
Then the Investigating Officer on the case – Sergeant Xokozela – was called to the witness stand.
He gave testimony as to what had happened on the day of the murder, explaining that the accused had attacked his victim with a hammer whilst she was on a ladder in her own property. A neighbour had called the police, but when people arrived to try and help her, Kelly came out of his house and went for them too. He had also attacked and damaged several vehicles. He said that eventually, the accused had to be brought down with rubber bullets.
The Sergeant intimated that bail should not be granted as the accused was dangerous and a flight risk, adding that Kelly had shown violent tendencies even before the actual murder took place, threatening a number of people including members of his own family, and neighbours, who he had allegedly warned ‘Watch out – you are next’
“I have spoken to members of Kelly’s family and they feel threatened by him,” he said, saying that one of them had reported him to the police and applied for a protection order against him.
“I have also spoken to his brother who said that he is a violent person,” the Sergeant reported to the court.
He then brought into evidence the Sedgefield Community Police Sub-Forum’s petition against Kelly’s bail.
Cross-examining the witness, Kelly asked the Sergeant if he acknowledged that people do lie to the police at times. “Not often” was the reply.
Kelly then requested to submit to the court that the neighbours who suggested that he had threatened to kill them on the day of the murder were lying. He became very defensive regarding his family, saying that accusations that his cousin had taken out a protection order against him were false as he hadn’t seen her in a very long time.
He also claimed that his other family members were lying too, and that he hadn’t seen his brother since 2010. “I found out that he had been having sex with my mother!” He blurted out, surprising everyone in court.
Kelly’s vehement response to the signed petition against his bail brought even more murmurs of shock from those in the court.
“Your Honour I have been a resident of Sedgefield for four years. It is a town full of churches and full of evil,” he said. Then he went on to claim that parents ‘pimped’ their children on the streets on Sundays whilst people were in church. Then, quite out of the blue, he dropped a bombshell, boldly stating that the disappearance of the Norwegian girl (Marie Ostbo, who disappeared in April last year) had not been perpetrated by one person, but the entire community.
On a defensive roll, Kelly then began verbalising a number of incidents in which he felt he had been victimized, until Magistrate Hans stopped him, and asked if he believed the whole of Sedgefield was evil except for him. As the court was about to be adjourned for lunch, she cautioned him that after the break he should get to the gist of his statement, rather than relating different stories.
By 2.15 Kelly was back in the dock and continuing his reasons for the granting of his bail application.
He said that a defamatory letter had appeared in The EDGE Newspaper about someone matching his description and thereafter, once he responded to the letter, a whole lot of suspicious activity had gone on around his house, with people forming a ‘witch-hunt’ against him.
As a final submission, he said he should be granted bail because he will keep to himself and not make contact with other community members.
He then dropped another bombshell on the court by confessing to the crime.
“I admit right now before this court that I did kill Noreen,” he said, adding “But it was not murder. There was no premeditation whatsoever.”
After a short rebuttal from Prosecutor Mqulo, Magistrate Hans summed up the case, explaining that all the reasons Kelly had put forward as to why his bail application should be granted had been taken into account in the court’s decision-making process, as well as those submitted by the prosecution against the application.
She said that the numerous instances of violence during the course of the crime, as well as the alleged threats of violence against the neighbours, and the fact that by Kelly’s own implication, the community has ‘a problem with him’, ticks many of the boxes that need to be ticked in refusing a bail application, notwithstanding his admission of guilt. Also the petition signed by 1800 people had to be taken into account and had sent a message that the court could not ignore.
“Only on these grounds – I don’t even need to go into the others such as a threat to public peace and security – your bail application has failed,” She proclaimed.
With that done and the court date for his trial set for 29 March 2019, Kelly was remanded in custody.