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Nabbed! Durban's tag master 16/01/2010

GRAFFITI: Serial vandal likely to face stern punishment after PI tracks him

By Sharlene Packree.

A DURBAN graffiti artist, who vandalised more than 1 400 properties and then allegedly posted videos on You Tube website, made a brief appearance in the Durban Magistrate's Court yesterday.

Dressed in a pinstripe suit, Phillip Botha of Glenwood stood with his head bowed in the dock while he was formally charged with 860 counts of malicious damage to property.

Botha (29) is believed to be the son of a Durban magistrate, and owned a clothing store in Mahatma Gandhi (Point) Road.

It is believed that Botha also sold graffiti paints at the store before it was closed down in 2008.

Roy Jee, a private investigator hired by the municipality, said he has been gathering information about Botha and other graffiti vandals for the past two years, and wanted to build a strong case so Botha would not get off with a light fine.

Previously, culprits were only given small fines or were dealt with by the National Institute for Crime Prevention and Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro).

Determined to apprehend Botha, Jee called in a handwriting expert and obtained search warrants.

Botha and others in his group have allegedly defaced bridges, fences, telephone poles, municipal bins and even Metrorail trains.

His personal tag 2Kil can be seen throughout the city on fences and concrete bridges.

Jee said the graffiti artists loved tagging trains as they have smooth surfaces and move around the province.

"We want to use this case as an example to others who deface property. This is vandalism on a large scale. He has caused thousands of rands of damage," he said.

Jee said there was evidence that Botha had created a page on You Tube and Myspace, popular social networking websites, and would regularly post videos of the group tagging bridges and trains.

"The suspect also has a personal web page where he had a record of all the tags he had sprayed. Some of these tags can be traced back to four years ago," he said.

"He has been doing this for a long and thought that he could get away. Finally, he has gotten caught," said Jee.

He said that he hoped the court gave Botha a stiff sentence as that would send a stern message to other groups.

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