How Alibi started… and won a national award

The groundbreaking hit radio series and podcast won Best Radio Feature at the national Vodacom Journalist of The Year Awards. Here’s how the show came about…

Written by Paul McNally

The power of narrative radio is best emphasized when exploring a mystery. And few things are more devastating to a journalist than to discover a man in jail who could have spent the last 17 years of his life inside for a crime he didn’t commit. This is the premise that pulled me into the story of Anthony De Vries and became “Alibi”. What kept me there and allowed me to expand the story into an eight-part radio series was the sheer depth of deception and discrimination I uncovered by those in power.

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Anthony was in jail for a crime that happened in 1994, a few weeks before South Africa’s first democratic election. Two security guards were murdered at a Checkers supermarket. Thousands of Rands were stolen and never recovered. We take the listener on a journey to explore if Anthony was innocent or guilty of these crimes. Alibi is a story about one man and his pursuit for justice, but it is also about how our country’s history is broken into pre and post-1994 and how our courts and police have changed during this transition. It also explores how people are still being punished by a system that we wish was long buried. Here is a coloured man who was convicted of a crime that happened before the 1994 election, but he has spent most of our democracy behind bars.

There was a fact (revealed at the end of the first episode) that made me realize this story was more than a possible wrongful conviction story. Anthony was brutally tortured by apartheid police officers while he was in high school in the early nineties (he was kept in the back of their van and driven around for weeks). He miraculously won a court settlement from the apartheid government for the violence he endured. However, his past would come back to haunt him as the same police officer who tortured him ended up being the investigating officer on the Checkers murder case that would send him to jail for most of his life. This is when I realized that there was a possibility this police officer had enacting revenge against Anthony: it was the same police officer, just years later and this fact was never brought up at Anthony’s trial.

When I started work on Alibi (at the start of 2015) what I was attempting had never been done in South Africa. This was a narrative, documentary radio series broadcast over eight weeks on a national radio station. It was produced as a partnership between Citizen Justice Network , Wits Radio Academy and Wits Justice Project with funding from The Open Society Foundation for South Africa, HiiL Innovating Justice and Canon Collins Trust.

A huge challenge was to develop my story into a serialized format, make it compelling and accurate and get the commitment from a major radio station (like SAFM) to broadcast the series.

The second challenge: when I began working on the story Anthony was still incarcerated and we had to communicate over the telephone (with me recording the calls). I would visit him, but it was impossible to bring a recorder into prison and document these meetings. I won the trust of him, his family and his lawyer and they would all become characters in the series. The crime occurred over two decades ago and I had to find paperwork that would confirm what I was being told by my sources. I tracked down the people and places involved in the crime. I wanted to balance the unfolding of the story, the discovery of evidence and also maintain the tension for the listener around if Anthony was innocent or guilty.

The third challenge was the quality of production: I wanted this to be as high as possible. If we were going to bring a South African story to this serialized radio medium, then I wanted it to be on a par with the international examples that had come before. This meant recording and re-recording voice over so it sounded natural. It meant scripting and re-scripting so the episodes flowed into each other professionally. The hit podcast “Serial” explored a possible wrongful conviction and I knew that people would draw comparisons so I wanted the story to be valid and worthwhile beyond the way it was being told. I also wanted to make sure that journalistically Alibi was accurate and to a high standard, even if the tone was conversational (as is demanded of the medium of narrative radio). I put all the documents from the case up on the website and invited listeners to make decisions and ask questions on social media around the case.

I travelled around Gauteng and The Free State visiting people who could elaborate for me on the case. I wanted to bring as many voices and characters into the story as a way to explore the different aspects of the case. I found the man who investigated Anthony’s torture claims (now in his 70s) and found out his opinion on the case and Anthony’s innocence. I found the man who owned the DVD store, outside which the murders took place, and asked him about the bullet holes that remained buried in the walls of his shop years later.

I believe Alibi has broken new ground in terms of investigative journalism being broadcast on national radio. Each week people tuned in (or downloaded the podcast) to see what would happen next. This wasn’t a show that just existed online. I believed it was important that a radio listening public got to experience true, documentary-style, immersive radio on FM. And this was a story that mattered, where a man’s life was always in the balance. Alibi marks the start of ‘event-listening’ for radio in South Africa.

The response on SAFM was perfect and in podcast form, we definitely struck a chord with listeners. I presented the logistics of producing Alibi at The Wits Radio Academy’s annual conference “Radio Days Africa” in June this year. On Memeburn, it made the list of top SA podcasts. And in the Irish Times, we made the list for the best new crime podcasts internationally.

Alibi was broadcast every Sunday on SAFM at 2.30pm (starting on the 5th of March 2017). Articles were written for each episode of Alibi for The Daily Maverick. It created interaction and increased the number of listeners.

Subscribe to the show on iTunes here

Find the articles associated with the episodes published on The Daily Maverick here.

Find all the episodes and more information about the case at www.alibi.org.za

Alibi Wins At Vodacom Awards!

“Alibi” took home a gong at The Vodacom Journalist Of The Year Awards on Tuesday for Best Radio Feature.

Here’s what the judges said: “This year the quality of entries for the Radio Feature category was also very high. Ultimately, the regional award went to a brilliant piece of radio work on which the winner had worked for a very long time. For telling the story of an innocent man who spent 17 years in jail, the regional winner is: Paul McNally with John Bartmann, Kutlwano Serame and Freddy Mabitsela of Citizen Justice Network for SAfm for the eight-part series, “Alibi”.

“Alibi”| is now in the running for the national awards which is to be held on the 16th of November 2017.

Alibi: South African Podcasting At Its Best

When This American Life launched its groundbreaking show Serial in 2015, they chiseled into the medium all sorts of legitimacy and validation as both a storytelling and journalistic medium. Since then, we’ve watched the floodgates open and podcasters compete to fill the feeds with spoken word, interviews, music, theatre, book readings and inspired messages on every topic imaginable, from news to horror fiction to hip hop culture.

Continue reading “Alibi: South African Podcasting At Its Best”

How The Alibi Podcast Music Was Made

The following post was written by podcast music composer John Bartmann for Alibi.co.za

Writing the music for the podcast Alibi was a project that resonated very strongly with me early in the dialogue with the show’s multiple award-winning creator Paul McNally. The written material deals with a distinctly South African theme – injustice; one benefiting from another’s misfortune. Every day in South Africa, you’re presented with opportunities where you feel compelled to balance out this injustice of your own volition. The ongoing parade of unfortunate individuals begging at traffic lights, lying on the sides of the street and drinking their hopes away is a byproduct of a systematic, decades-long oppression that all South Africans feel, whether they want to or not.

Continue reading “How The Alibi Podcast Music Was Made”

Alibi, Ep 8: SA podcast concludes with finding a lawyer to help, a cop to tell his story and a prison warder to argue for our guy’s innocence

The podcast and radio series Alibi over eight weeks has investigated whether one man, Anthony de Vries, is innocent of his crimes, a double murder and robbery at a Checkers supermarket in Vereeniging in 1994. The start of the episode sees us trying to push for legal representation for Anthony… and ends with finding one of his old friends. By PAUL McNALLY.

This article originally appearing on The Daily Maverick.

Thulani Nkosi, the interminably overworked advocate and lecturer from the Wits Law Clinic, takes a certain level of persuasion to take on Anthony’s case. There is a queue of clients behind me waiting to be seen. Eventually, he relents, with a smile. He leaps up and shakes my hand.

“What is one more?” he says. What is one more to add to the stream of clients needing legal help? I want Nkosi to assist with Anthony’s parole. Our guy is representing himself and though he is clued up with regards to the law, he has also made plenty of enemies over the years.

Listeners to Alibi, the podcast and radio show, over the past eight weeks have told me, almost as a threat, that they hope the ending won’t disappoint. And the underlying tickle is that a 100% lack of disappointment means that Anthony is without a doubt innocent. If he was 100% guilty then why did we spend this time on this story? And if we are in any way unsure of his innocence… then why did we spend time on this story?

The tension of this type of journalism is that even though the idea of the person in question being innocent or guilty is meant to be floating throughout, the enriching crescendo, for some, only materialises if he is innocent. The vague idea that we have all learnt valuable lessons about the law along the way doesn’t fly when people have spent four hours listening and want conclusive answers.

These expectations are flattering – it means people are engaged and truly involved in the story. But, there is another tension when offering a conclusion: personal bias. The legal parameters of someone being deprived of their access to justice, having poor legal representation or being sentenced harshly through common purpose, are not as satisfying as flat-out saying a man is innocent and has been in jail for most of his life, Shawshank Redemption-style. While investigating Anthony’s case I have learnt that you can’t trust your personal impressions of the one convicted, mainly because they are no longer the same person: the man who was photographed when arrested and who could have performed those crimes is not speaking to you today. I don’t want to be as rash as to say they have been “rehabilitated”, but a life in prison changed Anthony, buried his earlier self so I couldn’t, even if I’d spent years with him, distinguish his true, former character.

I believe that the BMW Anthony was meant to have been driving was not involved in the murder of the security guards. I believe, given the evidence uncovered in this investigation, that Anthony was in no way involved in the murder and robbery for which he was convicted. I believe he was tortured by the cops and statements were adjusted to incriminate him and convict him of multiple crimes because there was a lack of alternative living, breathing suspects. I believe there was a remarkable relationship between Anthony and the investigating officer that involved torture and horror – one which muddies the case almost on arrival.

However, what makes the case difficult, and narratively intoxicating, is when you ponder what Anthony was truly doing on that day of his arrest. Was he on the way to a job interview or do you believe he was capable of criminality – was he part of the trio driving around heavily armed in the dark blue BMW and therefore would he have landed in jail eventually? From a legal perspective this is an incredibly important miscarriage of justice. Anecdotally, people I have spoken to are often unsympathetic to Anthony having gone to jail. They believe he was the driver and essentially a mid-90s scallywag. There was no job interview, they say. Though, I would argue, even if that was the case he shouldn’t have gone to jail for killing two security guards. There is strong evidence for that. This shrug response I receive is important and I don’t condemn it – none of us want criminals on the streets. But the evidence is important: the ambiguity around the injuries, the fluidity of the statements given by police officers and how nothing conclusively linked him to the murder scene – we have a man who should have walked. How you believe he would have spent the intervening years if not in prison is a debate worth having, but separate from one involving the importance of a functioning justice system and robust accountability.

In this episode, the final of this first season of Alibi, you will see what happens to Anthony, where he ends up and how those around him respond to the conclusion of his story. DM

Alibi is broadcast weekly on SAFM at 2.30pm on Sundays.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Listen on Soundcloud

Visit www.alibi.org.za for more notes and info on the case.

Alibi is produced by Paul McNally, Wits Justice Project, The Wits Radio Academy and as part of Citizen Justice Network. It is presented by Freddy Mabitsela and Paul McNally.

Paul McNally is an award-winning journalist living in Johannesburg. He was a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow in 2016 at Harvard University. He is the author of the nonfiction book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers and is the Founding Director of Citizen Justice Network, a project based at Wits University that trains community paralegals to be radio journalists.

Alibi, Ep7: SA podcast probes why a man was given terrible legal help and whether his co-accused suffered the same fate

In episode 7 of Alibi, the podcast and radio series that is investigating a single criminal case over eight weeks, we finally track down where Anthony de Vries’s co-accused have been all these years … and what we discover makes it more astounding that our guy was ever convicted. By PAUL McNALLY.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Maverick.

Anthony de Vries was convicted of a double murder and robbery in the 1990s and we are investigating whether he is guilty or innocent of the crimes, as he has always claimed. The names of his co-accused were Steven Mkwanazi and Calvin Collins. Since the start of the investigation, Anthony has maintained that he only met his co-accused on the day of the arrest. This was on a patch of field beside a car crash where the police collected and photographed their suspects.

The crash was between a BMW and a truck. Anthony was meant to have been the driver of the BMW (according to the state), but he has insisted for years that he first saw the dark blue sedan only when he was told by the cops to stand next to it. This is the photo that we have of Anthony where he is painted red with blood – it was taken at the same time as those of the three co-accused – though there is no blood on Steven and Calvin. They look like they are in their mid-20s and are standing on a grass bank on a beautiful, sunny March afternoon.

In Anthony’s bail application in 1994 Warrant Officer Jacques Marais said that after interviewing the suspects he determined that the co-accused all knew each other. This assumption by Marais that Anthony knew his co-accused was brought up at trial and this idea that they hadn’t just been randomly picked up by cops strengthened the idea of them being a gang.

Anthony said from Boksburg Correctional Centre, when I interviewed him over the phone, “No, we didn’t know each other. We started knowing each other… where we started knowing each other was while we were together awaiting trial.”

When you are awaiting trial the facilities are often over-crowded and poorly regulated. Anthony was in there for five months.

However, crucially, in Constable Derek Wayne Gibson and Warrant Officer Francois Willem Riekart’s lost statements – the ones taken at the arrest stage, but which were lost when it came to trial – contradicted Marais and said they heard the two co-accused introduce themselves to Anthony.

Anthony was arrested away from the scene, but his co-accused, according to the police, were arrested coming straight out of the BMW, so the strength of their connection to Anthony is crucial to the case.

The three of them were arrested, allegedly tortured, spent months in prison awaiting trial and were then offered bail. Bail was set at R7,000 for Anthony – a lot for man earning R2,000 a month as a panelbeater in Ennerdale. When Anthony received bail he thought nothing was going to materialise from the case. He went back to his normal life. It took three years for the case to go to trial.

Anthony was eventually convicted under the law of common purpose which makes his co-accused more important. According to the law of common purpose, if you are an active member of a group and a person in your group commits a crime, such as a murder, then you are liable for that crime. In an apartheid context it allowed people to be imprisoned for being part of a protest or a gathering. So, if you commit a robbery with someone and they kill a cashier, then you could be convicted for the murder even though you did not directly kill the person. This is how Anthony was able to go to jail for double murder, double attempted murder and robbery when the judge only connected him to being the driver of the BMW.

We know that Anthony was the only one convicted of these crimes, despite there being strong evidence stacked against his co-accused. In this episode we find out what happened to Steven and Calvin and how their fate tangled Anthony’s case; we explore Anthony’s legal representation and find an upstanding man of the law who believes our guy failed to gain access to justice and we see if there is a chance of Anthony getting a lawyer to help him, finally, with his parole. DM

Alibi is broadcast weekly on SAFM at 2.30pm on Sundays.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Listen on Soundcloud

Visit www.alibi.org.za for more notes and info on the case.

Alibi is produced by Paul McNally, Wits Justice Project, The Wits Radio Academy and as part of Citizen Justice Network. It is presented by Freddy Mabitsela and Paul McNally.

Paul McNally is an award-winning journalist living in Johannesburg. He was a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow in 2016 at Harvard University. He is the author of the nonfiction book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers and is the Founding Director of Citizen Justice Network, a project based at Wits University that trains community paralegals to be radio journalists.

Alibi, Ep 6: SA podcast goes to court and asks if a ‘bullet graze’ injury has to involve a gun or a bullet

Alibi, the podcast and radio series, investigates over eight weeks whether one man, Anthony de Vries, is guilty or innocent of the crimes that put him in prison. In the sixth episode we are put into a spiral as we try to understand an injury from over 20 years ago. What we discover reframes the extent that evidence can be manipulated… and how paperwork, even from doctors, can lie. By PAUL McNALLY.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Maverick.

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg is a proud, ornate building. I went there in the hope of seeing Anthony de Vries face-to-face. He was experiencing alienating problems with his parole paperwork and had resorted to taking the head of prison to court for contempt. Anthony’s hope was that this threat would shake out a reaction and put his parole in motion. I was six episodes deep into investigating whether Anthony de Vries was guilty or innocent of a double murder and robbery from 1994.

I couldn’t find Anthony’s name on any of the court rolls. I was conflicted about seeing Anthony at this stage in the investigation. I edged right up to Anthony being the victim of abuse, which was clear in the last episode, and I don’t want to remove that. But we also found evidence of him having a “bullet graze” and this brought everything into doubt. However, I wanted to know if this “bullet graze” had been caused by something other than a bullet.

Outside the court to my left I saw Selwyn, Anthony’s brother, in his wheelchair in the sun. He was talking to a man I couldn’t quite see. So I walked over to Selwyn and shook his hand. Initially, I thought this man with the folder of papers that Selwyn was talking to must have been Anthony’s lawyer. He was a man with short black hair and a thin moustache with a couple of grey strands hooked over the upper lip. I imagined that Anthony was already on his way back to his cell at Boksberg Correctional Centre. The man with the folder said that the hearing for the contempt of court charge had been postponed for a few days.

I looked down suddenly and saw that the man who I thought was Anthony’s lawyer had silver shackles on his ankles. This was Anthony. His tie and suit were a mesh of green and yellow with a black crisscrossing pattern. The jacket was slightly big on him. There were lines around his eyes and a paleness to his face from the lack of sun. He had a calm, otherworldly disposition. I overlaid the sight of Anthony in his green and yellow suit on the streets of Johannesburg with the image I already had of him in my mind as a young man in Vereeniging covered in blood. This image felt particularly grotesque, because I couldn’t help but question where the blood had come from: a smack with a bottle, as Anthony had described it in his alibi, or a bullet from a police officer?

We chatted for a few minutes – mostly we talked about his parole, but all the while I was thinking about the “bullet graze” – and then Anthony said suddenly that his transport had arrived. The DCS official next to him stood up. The second official behind him slid forward and Anthony bent down to hug Selwyn in his wheelchair.

I watched the van take Anthony back to Boksberg Correctional Centre and I thought: I missed my chance. I wanted to confront him about the “bullet graze”, and I choked.

What happens through the rest of this sixth episode while trying to unravel the “bullet graze” mystery leads me to trauma specialists, lawyers, back to Moremi (the private investigator from Daveyton featured in episode 5) and finally to confronting Anthony himself. The result gives us a whole new perspective on Anthony’s case and a shocking revelation around how evidence in general can be grossly misinterpreted. DM

Alibi is broadcast weekly on SAFM at 2.30pm on Sundays.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Listen on Soundcloud

Visit www.alibi.org.za for more notes and info on the case.

Alibi is produced by Paul McNally, Wits Justice Project, The Wits Radio Academy and as part of Citizen Justice Network. It is presented by Freddy Mabitsela and Paul McNally.

Paul McNally is an award-winning journalist living in Johannesburg. He was a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow in 2016 at Harvard University. He is the author of the non-fiction book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers and is the Founding Director of Citizen Justice Network, a project based at Wits University that trains community paralegals to be radio journalists.

Alibi, Ep 5: A deep look at how a man was tortured… to figure out if he was innocent of murder

In the fifth episode of the podcast series Alibi we get closer to discovering if Anthony de Vries is guilty or innocent of the crimes that put him in jail for most of his life. It involves focusing on the injuries from when he was tortured – they hold the important secrets. By PAUL McNALLY.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Maverick.

The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg is a proud, ornate building. I went there in the hope of seeing Anthony de Vries face-to-face. He was experiencing alienating problems with his parole paperwork and had resorted to taking the head of prison to court for contempt. Anthony’s hope was that this threat would shake out a reaction and put his parole in motion. I was six episodes deep into investigating whether Anthony de Vries was guilty or innocent of a double murder and robbery from 1994.

I couldn’t find Anthony’s name on any of the court rolls. I was conflicted about seeing Anthony at this stage in the investigation. I edged right up to Anthony being the victim of abuse, which was clear in the last episode, and I don’t want to remove that. But we also found evidence of him having a “bullet graze” and this brought everything into doubt. However, I wanted to know if this “bullet graze” had been caused by something other than a bullet.

Outside the court to my left I saw Selwyn, Anthony’s brother, in his wheelchair in the sun. He was talking to a man I couldn’t quite see. So I walked over to Selwyn and shook his hand. Initially, I thought this man with the folder of papers that Selwyn was talking to must have been Anthony’s lawyer. He was a man with short black hair and a thin moustache with a couple of grey strands hooked over the upper lip. I imagined that Anthony was already on his way back to his cell at Boksberg Correctional Centre. The man with the folder said that the hearing for the contempt of court charge had been postponed for a few days.

I looked down suddenly and saw that the man who I thought was Anthony’s lawyer had silver shackles on his ankles. This was Anthony. His tie and suit were a mesh of green and yellow with a black crisscrossing pattern. The jacket was slightly big on him. There were lines around his eyes and a paleness to his face from the lack of sun. He had a calm, otherworldly disposition. I overlaid the sight of Anthony in his green and yellow suit on the streets of Johannesburg with the image I already had of him in my mind as a young man in Vereeniging covered in blood. This image felt particularly grotesque, because I couldn’t help but question where the blood had come from: a smack with a bottle, as Anthony had described it in his alibi, or a bullet from a police officer?

We chatted for a few minutes – mostly we talked about his parole, but all the while I was thinking about the “bullet graze” – and then Anthony said suddenly that his transport had arrived. The DCS official next to him stood up. The second official behind him slid forward and Anthony bent down to hug Selwyn in his wheelchair.

I watched the van take Anthony back to Boksberg Correctional Centre and I thought: I missed my chance. I wanted to confront him about the “bullet graze”, and I choked.

What happens through the rest of this sixth episode while trying to unravel the “bullet graze” mystery leads me to trauma specialists, lawyers, back to Moremi (the private investigator from Daveyton featured in episode 5) and finally to confronting Anthony himself. The result gives us a whole new perspective on Anthony’s case and a shocking revelation around how evidence in general can be grossly misinterpreted. DM

Alibi is broadcast weekly on SAFM at 2.30pm on Sundays.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Listen on Soundcloud

Visit www.alibi.org.za for more notes and info on the case.

Alibi is produced by Paul McNally, Wits Justice Project, The Wits Radio Academy and as part of Citizen Justice Network. It is presented by Freddy Mabitsela and Paul McNally.

Paul McNally is an award-winning journalist living in Johannesburg. He was a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow in 2016 at Harvard University. He is the author of the non-fiction book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers and is the Founding Director of Citizen Justice Network, a project based at Wits University that trains community paralegals to be radio journalists.

Episode Four: SA’s ‘Serial’ podcast goes on an AK-47-fuelled car chase with the cops and makes a discovery that changes the case completely

In Episode 4 of the Alibi podcast series we spend a morning in a Wimpy eating bacon and eggs, witness a man shoot an AK-47 from a moving car back at the cops and find a second set of statements, ones that never made it to trial, that give us a completely different picture of the case. By PAUL McNALLY.

Read the article where is appeared on The Daily Maverick.

I sit in the Wimpy with the paperwork for the case spread out on the table. There are photos next to the napkins – they are of corpses and crashed motor vehicles. Families are here at the Wimpy in Vereeniging for a midweek treat and meanwhile I am trying to orientate myself to the key locations of our murder, robbery, car chase story.

From where I’m sitting I can look out on the exact spot where one of the security guards was shot down dead. The case I am looking into, over eight weeks for the podcast and radio series Alibi, is of the double murder and robbery that happened here in 1994 at the Checkers shopping centre, which the Wimpy is part of. The only man who was convicted of the crimes is Anthony de Vries and when I met him in 2015 he had served 17 years in prison and had always insisted that he was innocent. I am exploring whether Anthony is guilty or if he was a victim of a wrongful conviction (the first three episodes are available for listening to on soundcloud and download on iTunes) and in the fourth episode I am at the Wimpy to explore the car chase between a BMW and the police that occurred near the Checkers on the day of the robbery.

My Wimpy waitress brings me my very welcome plate of bacon and eggs. Her hair is pulled up high on her head and she is wearing heavy black make-up. Her eye catches a particularly gruesome photo from the case and she says she’s intrigued. I tell her the details of the case and we chat about what it is like to live in the area. With gusto the waitress goes to fetch me a map so she can point out the intersection where the car chase started. Anthony, according to the state, was driving the BMW as a getaway vehicle to the robbery.

While the BMW was being chased, at high speed, a man manoeuvred himself out of the passenger side of the car. He was holding an AK47 as he climbed out and proceeded to shoot back at the police. These shots at the cop car were how Anthony picked up his two attempted murder convictions (though he couldn’t possibly have been driving the BMW and also be a passenger shooting backwards out of a different window at the same time).

The Wimpy waitress tells me the intersection isn’t too far and that I can actually walk there.

What I discover, as I visit the physical sites associated with the case, firmly swings me back to believing Anthony is innocent. I find out there are two conflicting sets of statements from Anthony’s case, written by the same people but just years apart. One set was written when he was arrested and the other when he was at trial. I can’t stress how different these versions are in the details, especially with how they talk about Anthony. The important part is that these contradictions in the statements never came up at trial; the original set was lost and only found years later.

I pay my bill at the Wimpy, thank the waitress and promise to keep her updated. After visiting the intersection where the car chase took place I track down the man who found the original set of statements. He is an incredible character and how he came across them is an amazing display of chance. And finally I get a hint of who was the internal investigator on the case (so a person who looks at the abuse and wrongdoing of police officers). Together these sources help us truly fill in what happened on that day of the murder and robbery in 1994 – and it is shocking the evidence that emerges that points in Anthony’s favour. DM

Alibi is broadcast weekly on SAFM at 2.30pm on Sundays.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Listen on Soundcloud

Visit www.alibi.org.za for more notes and info on the case.

Alibi is produced by Paul McNally, Wits Justice Project, The Wits Radio Academy and as part of Citizen Justice Network. It is presented by Freddy Mabitsela and Paul McNally.

Paul McNally is an award-winning journalist living in Johannesburg. He was a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow in 2016 at Harvard University. He is the author of the non-fiction book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers and is the Founding Director of Citizen Justice Network, a project based at Wits University that trains community paralegals to be radio journalists.

South African ‘Serial’ podcast – we visit the supermarket and stand exactly where the two victims were murdered (Episode 3)

The third episode of “Alibi”, the radio series and podcast which investigates a single criminal case over eight weeks, goes down to Vereeniging to visit the scene of the crime. The crime, an early morning cash-in-transit robbery at a Checkers supermarket, resulted in the murder of two security guards. “Alibi” tackles the question: Is Anthony de Vries innocent, as he claims, or guilty of these crimes for which he was convicted in 1998? By PAUL McNALLY.

Read this article where is appeared: on The Daily Maverick.

More than 20 years have passed since two security guards were shot and killed outside a video store at the Checkers Hyper Arcon Park Shopping Centre in Vereeniging, but little has changed.

The Video Check in the grainy crime scene photographs is now a fish and chip shop while modern-day security guards and their new protocols would make the 1994 ambush that happened with AK-47s a bit harder to orchestrate.

When I was first put in contact with Anthony in 2015 he had served 17 years and appealed to me in investigate his case as a possible wrongful conviction.

This investigation has taken me to the Checkers robbery and murder scene to look for traces of evidence that Anthony had been there in 1994. The crime happened in broad daylight surrounded by witnesses doing their weekly shop.

The shoot-out happened in front of the video store, piercing the glass beside posters for Sylvester Stallone’s dodgy mid-nineties movie Cliffhanger. The clerk working that day at Video Check had to duck down behind the counter as the shots were fired. The owner, for years afterwards, used posters for each month’s new releases to cover up the bullet holes so they were concealed from customers.

In the third episode of Alibi we interrogate what bystanders really saw on the day of the murders (the first two episodes are still on soundcloud and iTunes for you to catch up). And this is the curious truth behind the series: we have a man burdened with the sole conviction for a crime that could only be possible if helmed by a gang and we were struggling to find evidence of him being anywhere near the scene of the crime. DM

Alibi is broadcast weekly on SAFM at 2.30pm on Sundays.

Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes

Listen on Soundcloud

Visit www.alibi.org.za for more notes and info on the case.

Alibi is produced by Paul McNally, Wits Justice Project, The Wits Radio Academy and as part of Citizen Justice Network. It is presented by Freddy Mabitsela and Paul McNally.

Paul McNally is an award-winning journalist living in Johannesburg. He was a Knight Visiting Nieman Fellow in 2016 at Harvard University. He is the author of the non-fiction book The Street: Exposing a World of Cops, Bribes and Drug Dealers and is the Founding Director of Citizen Justice Network, a project based at Wits University that trains community paralegals to be radio journalists.