Ministers want high-level probe into Westville prison break

2010-02-23 00:00

A “HIGH-LEVEL” team is to probe the escape of eight dangerous awaiting trial prisoners from the Durban Westville correctional centre in KwaZulu-Natal, the Correctional Services Department said yesterday.

Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said in a statement that a preliminary investigation into the escape points to clear signs that the prisoners colluded with officials at the facility in orchestrating their escape.

She said she has already consulted Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele to put together a high-level investigation team.

Sugar cane plantation serial killer accused Thozamile Taki was among those who attempted to escape, but he injured himself and ended up in hospital under police guard.

The other eight escapees broke the roof of their cell on Sunday afternoon.

The minister said she is concerned about repeated collusion between department officials and prisoners.

“No stone will be left unturned in the quest to get to the bottom of this incident,” she said.

She said those found to have aided the escape will face the full might of the law.

Director Phindile Radebe said some of the escapees used a car to flee.

Some of them face murder, robbery and escape charges, she said.

Police have warned the public not to approach the men as they are considered dangerous.

The men broke free from the seventh floor of the prison.

They allegedly used bed sheets tied together to make a rope and slid several floors to the ground.

While Taki made his escape, the rope gave way, causing him to fall four storeys.

He broke a leg and sustained cuts and bruises.

Security guards heard Taki’s crying and found him lying on the ground in agony.

He was taken to King Edward Hospital where he is under police guard. He is in a stable condition.

Taki is currently on trial for the murder of 13 women.

He has pleaded not guilty to robbing and killing 13 women, 11 of whose decomposing bodies were found in cane fields in Umzinto in 2007.

He was due to appear in the high court in Ramsgate yesterday, but the trial was adjourned.

Radebe said the trial will resume once Taki is released from hospital.

Any person who may have information that will assist police in capturing the escapees is asked to contact Crime Stop at 086 001011.

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