Farmworker who poisoned milk 'could have killed 2 000 people'

2017-03-24 12:01

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Cape Town – The herbicide which a farmworker allegedly poured into a milk tank on his employer's farm could have killed up to 2 000 people, an expert says.

Andries Stoffels, 37, was arrested shortly after the incident, Netwerk24 reported.

It is alleged that he poured Gramoxone, also known as Paraquat, into a milk tank on the farm Samber, in the Riversdale area, on February 7.

He appeared in the Riversdale Magistrate's Court on a charge of malicious damage to property. His next appearance is on March 31.

The police are said to have seized the can which contained the Gramoxone.

'If you ingest it, you will die'

Dr Gerhard Verdoorn of the Griffon Poison Information Centre said on Thursday: "Stoffels shouldn't only be charged with malicious damage to property. Paraquat is the most poisonous of all herbicides. There is no antidote. If you ingest it, it's tickets..."

Verdoorn said the herbicide destroys all tissue.

"It eats away at your mouth, your oesophagus, your stomach... it burns up everything inside."

He said ingesting the poison and not regurgitating it immediately results in an excruciatingly painful death.

"If it takes an hour, four hours or four days, a person who ingests the herbicide will die."

Verdoorn said industry players Avima and Villa Crop Protection both have programmes to train farmers and farmworkers on how to use Paraquat safely.

"The person who intentionally poisoned the milk, could make it all come to naught."

Stoffels was apparently the one worker on the farm who had received extensive training in the handling and use of herbicides.

"There is no danger to people who use Paraquat correctly, wearing protective clothing, but if it is ingested, either intentionally to commit suicide, or accidentally as a result of malicious intent to kill, the chances of survival are very slim," Verdoorn said.

20 litres of herbicide

Netwerk24 has reliably learnt that 20 litres of the herbicide had been poured into a 6 000-litre milk tank.

Verdoorn said this could have resulted in up to 2 000 deaths.

The accused's brother, Jakkie, who also works at the farm, reportedly went to the milk tank on February 7 to get milk for his coffee.

He noticed that the milk was blue and called his employer Gabrie van Eeden's wife.

Gabrie's brother Dirk confirmed this.

"He called my sister-in-law. They saw that all the milk in the tank was blue. My sister-in-law realised that the milk had been sabotaged and called the police."

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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