‘Police killed my daughter’

2013-09-18 00:00

THE family of a woman killed while travelling from Port Shepstone to Durban claim that shots fired from an unmarked police car caused her to overturn her car.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is investigating whether excessive force led to Leanne Douglas’s death.

Douglas (45), owner of the Red Rooster restaurant at Spiller’s Wharf in Port Shepstone, died when her car overturned on Sunday at about 7 pm on the N2 Freeway near Umkomaas.

Her distraught mother, Leonie Luckin, said a terrified Douglas called her on Sunday night to tell her that police were trying to pull her off the road. Then the call ended.

“I waited a while and phoned her back to find out what was happening. She screamed, saying they were trying to kill her. She told me she had no idea why they were shooting at her. I could hear the gunshots and again the call got cut off,” said Luckin.

“She was so scared and said she would drive to the next police station. She was confused and had no idea what was going on.”

Luckin said she then called her daughter’s lawyer who in turn made some inquiries as to what was happening.

She said after a while the lawyer phoned her back, and broke the news that her daughter had flipped her car and died on the scene. Then the call came from the police, informing her of what had happened.

Luckin said police told her that the car had five bullet holes.

“One of the shots was fired at the tyre and the other was fired at the driver’s door. There are so many questions and no answers,” said Luckin.

She described her daughter as someone who was loved by all. “She was a great hostess, businesswoman and full of joy,” she said.

“She was my only child and she is all I have in the world.”

Today will be the toughest day in her life, when she will travel with her daughter’s body from a South Coast mortuary back to Durban.

It is still unclear whether Douglas died as a result of the bullets allegedly fired from an unmarked police vehicle following her or in the accident itself, and Luckin, who was speaking to Douglas as the shots were fired, is now pinning her hopes on the postmortem results tomorrow, to provide some answers.

Douglas’s ex-business partner and friend, Fiellies Swanepoel, said she was shocked when she heard the news.

“We started the business together about a year ago and have been friends for about two years. She was so full of life and creative,” said Swanepoel.

Swanepoel will manage the business until the funeral and other arrangements have been made.

Prior to the incident, Douglas and a few friends had gone on a cruise on the Umzimkhulu River, where her restaurant is situated.

A friend, who did not want to be named, said Douglas was her “usual bubbly self” and the news came as a shock to her.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS) spokesperson Dr Johan Burger said they normally advise people who are pulled over by suspicious vehicles to drive at a normal speed to the nearest police station or a place where there are people around.

He said given the rate of robberies and hijack incidents involving bogus blue light vehicles, it was unsafe to just pull over in the middle of nowhere. He said the use of force, including deadly force, is governed by Section 49 of the Criminal Procedure Act.

“In terms of this section, the police can only use force when their lives or lives of others are directly threatened. They [police] can also use deadly force if they believe a person they are about to arrest is armed and threatens serious body injury. In the absence of these conditions, it’s criminal for police to execute deadly force — including shooting at suspects,” said Burger.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that a murder case was opened at Umkomaas police station for investigation. He said the matter has been referred to the IPID for further investigation.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini could not be reached for comment.

Naicker said the Port Shepstone police on Sunday responded to a request from Umkomaas police for assistance after a driver was reportedly seen driving in an erratic manner.

When they arrived at the scene, police from various surrounding police stations were already there, where the car had overturned. The driver was confirmed dead. They immediately informed the IPID of the incident.

Naicker said they will give their full co-operation to the IPID investigation.

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