Warder: I saw detainee hang himself

A prison warder watched for 20 minutes while a young detainee wrapped a jersey around his neck, climbed onto a toilet below the cell’s window, tied the arm of the garment’s jersey to a bar on the window and slid from the toilet to his death.

Xolisa “Dicky” Jacob’s death occurred barely 24 hours before a certificate arrived, authorising his release after five months in Emergency detention, an Upington inquest court heard this week.

Warder Pienaar told Magistrate LJ Brandt the 20-year-old detainee had spent most of his detention in solitary confinement. He had been on a spare diet for one month.

Pienaar said at about 9:30 on October 22 last year, he had seen Xoliso tie the sleeve of his blue jersey to the bar of his cell window. The young detainee had told him he would hang himself as soon as he bad written to a police lieutenant asking why he had been detained when he had done nothing wrong.

The warder went to call a prison sergeant. When they and another warder arrived back at the cell, Xoliso had tied the jersey around his neck. The sergeant and the other warder left to fetch the master key to file cell.

Pienaar said he had watched Xoliso tie his jersey sleeve to the window, slowly slide off the toilet and hang from the garment. “All the time he did not speak nor make any noise,” the warder said. When the other warders returned with a master key, 15 to 20 minutes later, they hauled Xoliso down, but he did not respond to heart massage.

Pienaar said the warders took detainee outside the cell and placed him on a concrete slab. They did not summon doctors or nurses to the scene.

Detainee dead after a night
An Emergency detainee was found dead in his cell in the Eastern Transvaal early yesterday morning. Benedict Mashoke, 20, is the third person to die in detention under the current Emergency. Mashoke was being held in police cells in Burgersfort, which borders Lebowa in the Sekhukhune area. According to Brigadier Leon Mellet, media liaison officer for the Minister of Law and Order, Mashoke had only been in “that particular cell” for one night. A SA Police public relations directorate statement said preliminary investigations showed Mashoke hanged himself with his shirt — Ruth Becker.

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