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Relative: Mandela interpreter in group that burned men

By The Associated Press

This article was published December 16, 2013 at 7:39 a.m.


Thamsanqa Jantjie gestures at his home during an interview in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013.

JOHANNESBURG — The bogus sign-language interpreter at last week's Nelson Mandela memorial service was among a group of people who accosted two men found with a stolen television and burned them to death by setting fire to tires placed around their necks, one of the interpreter's cousins and three of his friends said Monday.

But Thamsanqa Jantjie never went to trial in the 2003 killings when other suspects did in 2006 because authorities determined he was not mentally fit to stand trial, said the four. They insisted on speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the fake-signing fiasco, which has embarrassed South Africa's government and prompted a high-level investigation into how it happened.

Their account of the killings matched a description of the crime and the outcome for Jantjie that he himself described in an interview published Sunday by the Sunday Times newspaper of Johannesburg.

"It was a community thing, what you call mob justice, and I was also there," Jantjie told the newspaper.

Jantjie was not at his house Monday, and the cousin said Jantjie had been picked up by someone in a car Sunday and had not returned. His cellphone rang through to an automatic message saying Jantjie was not reachable.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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