June 22 2009 at 01:30PM
A Pretoria advocate received a great birthday present on Friday, when a charge of murdering a policeman was withdrawn against him in the Pretoria Magistrate's Court.
Advocate Gerhard Philip Retief, 35, heard that the Directorate of Public Prosecutions had declined to prosecute him for shooting off-duty railway police officer Constable Romeo Mahlake, who apparently had tried to hijack him and his wife.
"I was relieved when I heard charges were withdrawn, but there is still a lot of stress and questions left," said Van Rooyen. "The one attacker is still free and I'm disappointed with the legal system.
"The police say we are responsible for our own safety. However, if we do protect ourselves, we are prosecuted. It was like that movie scene where James Bond asked Goldfinger: 'What do you expect me to do?'"
'If we do protect ourselves, we are prosecuted.'
However, his Ukrainian wife, Nataliia, proudly described Van Rooyen as "my James Bond", recalling how he had fired a warning shot past her through the passenger window of their car on March 1 this year at Fort Klapperkop.
"The view of the city from Fort Klapperkop was the first place I had taken her to, so it was a special place, and we went there again that Sunday night," Van Rooyen said.
While driving to the lookout point, the couple saw a vehicle driving past.
"The sun was just setting and the city lights flickering on. We sat with the windows open. Then we saw the same vehicle, with two men inside, driving towards us. I immediately felt uneasy," the advocate recalled.
The driver of the vehicle parked next to them, asking directions. After Van Rooyen assisted them, the two men in the other car spoke to each other before getting out of their vehicle.
"The driver walked straight to us, drawing a big black pistol from his side. He cocked it and pointed it at my wife," Van Rooyen said.
He said he shouted "No, no,"and pulled out his own firearm.
Van Rooyen fired a warning shot through the passenger window, over his wife, who had sunk down in her seat.
"I couldn't believe seeing a gun next to my head. Fortunately, I had my own James Bond," Nataliia said.
They heard at least one other shot fired.
As Van Rooyen reversed into the road, he saw the accomplice running away. Then he saw the driver lying on his stomach in the road, his pistol next to him.
It was later established that Mahlake's police radio and service pistol were both in his possession, yet they were supposed to have been handed in as he was off duty.
Van Rooyen phoned the 112 emergency number while driving to the Brooklyn police station.
There he and his wife laid a charge of attempted robbery and gave statements. The police dispatched a unit to the scene.
On the following Monday Van Rooyen received a call, saying the incident was under the jurisdiction of the Sunnyside police and he should come in for "further questioning".
"As I had already given a statement and knew the attacker was a cop, something appeared fishy. So I took my attorney with me."
He was then arrested for murder and locked up.
He was later granted bail of R1 000. Nataliia heard about his arrest only when Van Rooyen returned home.
"It is much safer in the Ukraine," she said. "There you can walk in the streets at night.
"We are a young couple; what are we supposed to do? You can't go anywhere, except to a restaurant, and even then you still feel like you are walking in a minefield."
Van Rooyen is still deciding whether he should sue the police for wrongful arrest.
This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on June 22, 2009