DETAILS of botched escape plans came to light in the Port Elizabeth Regional Court on Friday, where four of seven accused in the robbery of millions of rands' worth of liquid platinum brought applications for bail.
The men were arrested in Deal Party between November last year and January following their alleged involvement in the hijacking of a security van transporting the precious metal.
Five of the alleged gang members and an innocent bystander were killed during a shoot-out with undercover police on November 8 last year.
Police were aware of plans to hijack Brinks Security and had replaced the driver of the van with an undercover agent.
Unathi Wana, 44, Mongesi Tsume, 37, Lonwabo Nethi, 28, Madoda Nube, 38, and Luyanda Njokweni, 37, were arrested at the scene, while Xolani Nanto, 37, and Vukile Nglangisa, 50, were arrested in January. They had allegedly been on the run.
The accused face charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, conspiracy, unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, three counts of attempted murder and six counts of murder.
Bail for Nube and Njokweni was previously refused, while Nglangisa declined to apply for bail.
On Friday, the remaining accused – Wana, Tsume, Nethi and Nanto – had their bail applications heard in consolidation. Their attorneys submitted affidavits detailing each applicant's personal circumstances.
The defence refuted allegations that not only did the accused pose a flight risk, but they were a danger to the public and had tried to escape from custody on more than one occasion.
Investigating officer Colonel Lungisile Manyana said he was aware of two separate instances where the accused had conspired to escape.
He said in November last year, shortly after their arrests, police were informed of plans to break out two of the accused from Livingstone Hospital where they were recovering from gunshot wounds.
Then, earlier this year, police were again tipped off that there were plans to escape while being transported to and from court.
Prosecutor Martin le Roux said this was the reason for the high police visibility in court during the bail application.
"There is still a risk that someone might come back and help them escape," Manyana added.
He said while the police investigation was nearing completion, the state was still waiting on ballistics and DNA reports.
He said about 17 weapons were fired on the day of the robbery and with six people killed and many injured, the forensic labs had their work cut out.
But Wana's attorney, Elsabet Theron, insisted that had her client intended to escape, he would have done so by now.
Closing argument will be heard today.