Gran's bomb joke bombs
Mike van Rooyen, Volksblad
Bloemfontein - An Mpumalanga woman's joke about having a bomb and a machine gun in her suitcase while checking in at Bloemfontein airport resulted in her being arrested and detained overnight.
Charmaine Hugo, 50, had been in Bloemfontein for the birth of her second grandchild.
Her joke resulted in a special sitting of the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court in the early hours of Saturday morning. She was released on R500 bail shortly before dawn by Magistrate Andries Schoeman. The State did not oppose bail.
She is due to appear in the magistrate's court again on Monday, presumably charged with contravening the Civil Aviation Act.
Willem Edeling was instructed by Francois Alberts, of Alberts Attorneys, to appear on behalf of Hugo, while Johan de Nysschen represented the State.
A source told Volksblad that there is the possibility of a civil suit and criminal charges against police officials as a result of their actions.
Hugo's husband is also an attorney.
As far as can be ascertained, the drama started on Friday evening as Hugo checked in her luggage for her flight to Johannesburg.
Apparently she was asked a few times what she had in her suitcase, to which she answered that it contained only clothing and similar items.
When asked for the umpteenth time, she apparently replied in a joking way that she was carrying a machine gun and a bomb or explosives.
Volksblad was told that explosives experts and sniffer dogs showed up immediately and started to search her luggage. Although no weapons or explosives were found, Hugo was arrested.
She called Alberts before the police took her to the Navalsig police station, where De Nysschen reportedly arrived after he, too, was summoned.
Alberts called in Edeling's help.
Volksblad has also learned that, despite a recommendation by De Nysschen that she be released with a warning, the police refused to release her.
The police transferred her to the cells at the Mangaung police station.
Meanwhile, Edeling had made arrangements for a bail application at the magistrate's court, but a policeman at Mangaung reportedly refused to take her to the court.
Apparently Edeling, Alberts, De Nysschen and Schoeman spent over an hour waiting in the magistrate's court building in the early morning hours, before members of the organised crime unit brought Hugo to the court. The bail application finally began at 05:00.
On Sunday Alberts told Volksblad that Hugo, who is currently with her son in Bloemfontein, is still too traumatised to speak to the media.
"It's a nightmare. The way they treated her was unacceptable."
Police spokesperson Mmako Mophiring confirmed the incident on Sunday and said Hugo had apparently threatened or alleged that there was a bomb in her luggage.
Such comments or threats are taken very seriously and will not be tolerated, he said, adding that it is probably due to the gravity of the incident that the police didn't want to release her on bail.