'Any of our children could have died in that cell'

2016-06-30 20:39


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Cape Town – Mourners at a memorial service for a Beaufort West pupil killed in a police holding cell, on Thursday vowed to prevent such deaths in future.

"What if somebody has a heart attack in the holding cells? How do you make contact with the people in the charge office?" Community Policing Forum chairperson Mohamed Adams said.

They intended to see that legislation was changed to ensure that anybody in a holding cell could communicate with somebody in the station.

"We have panic buttons and alarms everywhere, but what about those in the cells?"

About 1 000 people - including politicians, police officers, education department officials, locals and fellow pupils – attended a memorial service for 18-year-old Gerdo Karelse at the Beaufort West Secondary School. He was a Grade 11 pupil there.

Karelse's bloodied body was discovered in the local police station’s cells at 06:15 on Monday morning, with multiple facial wounds.

Police would not comment on reports that he was found naked behind the cell door, with his lips missing and his teeth scattered around him.

"What we asked each other in that hall today, was 'what would we have done if Gerdo was our child?'," Adams said.

After the memorial service, a group of pupils closest to him was taken into a counselling session, Adams said.

Police watchdog Ipid was investigating the case. Spokesperson Robbie Raburabu said on Wednesday they would determine if hourly checks were done on the cell shared by Gerdo and Zuko Mqungquthu, 29, as required.

Mqungquthu, who was arrested for domestic violence on Friday, was charged with his cellmate's murder. He would be back in court on July 5.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate would also find out if Gerdo screamed during his ordeal and whether anyone followed up on this.

Gerdo was arrested on Sunday around 16:00 and charged with assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm, and malicious damage to property.

Ipid was still awaiting an autopsy report.

Read more on:    police  |  george  |  crime

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