Widow sues MEC, police for R1,3 mln

2008-03-12 00:00

The MEC for Community Safety and Liaison in KZN is defending a R1,3 million action brought in the high court here by the widow of a man who died in police custody allegedly after being refused medical care in 2003.

Pietermaritzburg widow Loraine Craig (45) is suing the MEC, the charge office commmander of Hammarsdale Police Station and policeman Musawakhe Morris Mwandla for amounts totalling R1 361 800 in respect of herself and her three children.

Craig told high court Judge Piet Koen yesterday that she and family members of her late husband "begged and pleaded" to no avail with police at the Hammarsdale charge office to permit her late husband to seek medical help. Andre Vincent Craig died in Grey’s Hospital on July 20, 2003 where he was allegedly only taken 16 hours after his detention in connection with an accident on the N3 highway in which two people had burnt to death the previous night.

Craig was allegedly under the influence of alcohol at the time and was alleged to have been travelling on the wrong side of the highway when his Toyota Corolla collided head on with a BMW at about 9.30 pm on July 19, 2003.

Under cross-examination by advocate, Rishi Seegobin, SC, for the minister, Craig admitted that her husband smelled of alcohol on the night in question and Seegobin suggested too that her husband’s blood alcohol level had been 0,25 grams per 100 ml of blood. The legal limit is 0,05 g.

She told the court that when she saw him at the charge office, her husband complained repeatedly about chest pains, vomited blood and at one stage "curled up in pain" and lay on the floor.

Her pleas and those of other relatives for him to be allowed to go to hospital were ignored. The police responded that two people had died and he could not be released for medical treatment.

According to court papers, Andre Craig sustained numerous injuries as a result of the accident, including drag abrasions, a drain in the right chest, fractured ribs, bruised lungs and pneumonia, a tear in the thoracic aorta and a lacerated liver.

The case is proceeding.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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