Accused died in cell after cops beat him, court told

2012-05-16 00:00

WHEN Njabulo Khambule was brought to the Msinsini police station, he was unable to walk and much of his body showed evidence of being beaten.

The next morning he was found dead in his cell.

This is according to testimony heard yesterday in the high court in Ramsgate, where two Msinsini police officers are on trial on one count of murder in connection with the death.

Detective constables Mlungisi Eric Msomi (32) and Sifiso Eugene Cele (38) are accused of killing Khambule in January 2011.

They are also accused of attempting to kill his friend, Nthuthuko Mshengu, in the same month.

The policemen pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.

The state says Khambule and Mshengu were arrested for housebreaking and were assaulted while in the custody of the two policemen. The charge against the men was later withdrawn.

Sandile Shozi testified in the officers’ trial yesterday that he was an inmate in the cell that Khambule was brought to.

He said Khambule was brought through the back entrance of the police station by Msomi and Cele.

“He could not walk. A toe on his left foot was injured. His hands were swollen and the handcuffs had dug into the flesh on his wrists,” said Shozi.

He said another inmate helped Khambule to the shower.

“When he removed his T-shirt, his body was blue and had marks from being beaten. He could not eat on his own.”

Shozi said the other inmate fed Khambule and gave him a painkiller.

“We all went to bed at 9 pm. When we woke up in the morning, he was not talking or moving so we called for the police from the charge office.

“Only when the police arrived did we realise he was dead.

“We don’t know if he died during the night or in the morning,” said Shozi.

During cross-examination, attorney Larry Seethal questioned the validity of Shozi’s testimony.

He asked how it was possible for an inmate to see that Khambule was taken to the prison by the two accused and tried to disprove Shozi’s evidence using photographs.

Judge Greg Kruger ordered a site visit at the police station, where Shozi’s testimony was borne out.

Sakhile Ngcobo, of Ndelu near Umzumbe, testified earlier that Khambule passed though his property in the company of the policemen on January 27, 2011, at around 2 pm.

On their return, Khambule could not walk unaided and the policemen were holding him on either side.

“He [Khambule] asked for water, which I gave him and accused one [Msomi] said that I am being too gentle with him.

“He pulled the jug of water and spilt it on Njabulo’s face,” said Ngcobo.

He added that Khambule appeared to have been assaulted.

“He was handcuffed. His hands and face were swollen. He couldn’t stand up and they started hitting him on his knees with the truncheon.”

Seethal asked Ngcobo if he was certain of the time he saw the three men.

“Njabulo was booked out of the police station at 7.05 am and booked back in at 11.50 am. But your estimated time of seeing them was at 2 pm.”

Ngcobo responded that he was certain as a nearby school was just out at that time.

The case resumes today.

Both officers are out on bail.

• witness@feveronline.co.za

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