Station commander 'slept' during assault in cells

A police station commander did not respond to the screams of a farmer and a farm manager who were assaulted in a prison cell in 2006, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard on Wednesday.

The farmer, Etienne van Wyk (45), and the manager, Zachariah Duvenhage (28), both from Vryheid, are suing the safety and security minister for R1,2-million and R350 000 respectively. The minister is contesting the claims.

The two men were arrested for allegedly transporting Van Wyk’s game animals without a licence. They have given permission for their names to be used in the media.

Gerrie Roberts, SC, for the claimants, said because the station commander of Hlobane police station, near Vryheid, did not respond to the screams, the inference was that he was asleep.

Other police officers did not respond to the screams either.
Roberts said that the prescribed hourly inspections of the cells during the two men’s incarceration did not take place.

Vryheid district surgeon Dr Senta Klingenberg told the court there was evidence that van Wyk was sodomised. Duvenhage had two bruises on the head and on his back, she said.

Roberts said Van Wyk and Duvenhage were in January 2006 arrested on an allegation of poaching and initially placed in a cell by themselves.

However, at 11.35pm three woman suspects were put into the cell and Van Wyk and Duvenhage were moved into a cell with 14 other inmates.

Van Wyk was sodomised at about 3am by one or more inmates who broke into song during the incident. Judge Nic van der Reyden said this was a ruse often used by prisoners to mask the sound of a bar being sawn or similar incidents.

Roberts said Van Wyk managed to phone his wife, who contacted the investigating officer in the poaching case.

The investigating officer went to the station and found the gate locked. He phoned the station’s number and heard a phone ringing in the charge office.

He blew his car hooter but there was no response. He climbed the locked gate and entered the charge office, where he found the commander, an Inspector Mtshali, asleep at 3.55am.

The officer then took Van Wyk and Duvenhage to Klingenberg.

The case is set down for three days.—Sapa

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