Cele mourns Margate’s ‘darling’

2009-12-24 00:00

CAPTAIN Michelle Pitout, who died from gunshot wounds sustained in a police raid, was praised by National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele for her dedication during a visit to her home in Uvongo on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast yesterday.

Pitout, the station commissioner of Gamalakhe police station and her colleagues, Detective constable Grant Phelukhwayo and Inspector Trevor Moodley were shot during a police raid in Gamalakhe, near Margate last Wednesday. They were tracking housebreaking suspects when they were shot.

She sustained a gunshot wound to the head and was on life support at Margate Hospital.

Her family then took the painful decision to switch off the life support machines after they found that there was no brain activity.

Cele visited her grieving family and offered his condolences after being informed that she had passed away. Sitting near the family’s large Christmas tree, Cele spoke to Pitout’s husband Ian and her two daughters, Robin(9) and Madison(4).

“Merry Christmas should be the first words I tell you. Unfortunately I cannot tell you this because of your loss,” he said.

He said that while Pitout was part of the SAPS family, the pain and loss Ian and his family felt could not be equalled.

Cele said that it was clear that Pitout was the “darling” of the community and managed to transcend cultural and language barriers with her warm personality. Community leaders had also expressed their condolences and support to the family.

“She managed to overcome these obstacles with ease. She was highly loved in the area and residents are mourning her loss,” he said.

Ian(Pitout’s husband) described his wife as an “exceptional mother and policewoman” who had dedicated her life to helping others in need.

He said that if she had made a full recovery, she would have shown no animosity and would have returned to be among the people who lived in Gamalakhe.

“I could talk for hours about her. She loved and gave freely. Being a policewoman was one of the most important things in the world to her. She went beyond the call of duty for her fellow officers,” he said.

Ian said that the family was battling to cope with her death.

“Everything is a blur right now. We are trying to keep the kids busy but it’s hard. We miss her so much.”

Pitout’s friend, Inspector Ian van Staaden, who was with Pitout when she was shot, battled to hold back tears as he spoke of the last moments he shared with her before she was rushed to hospital on that night.

“When I saw that she had been shot, I rushed to her. She was in a lot of pain. She held onto me and told me not to let her go,” he said.

Van Staaden said that Pitout was an awesome friend and colleague whose passing has left a huge void in their police station.

“Michelle … spent most of her time working; helping her colleagues out. She would often rush out late at night if anyone needed her,” he said.

Cele also visited Phelukhwayo and Moodley in hospital.

Pitout will be given a full military funeral on Tuesday.

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