Teen’s terror drive

2013-01-26 00:00

A Pietermaritzburg teen suffered a nightmare ordeal at the hands of corrupt police after a night out in Durban celebrating her friend’s birthday. Weekend Witness knows the girl and her family, as well as the nightclub in question.

She has refused to open a criminal case, for fear of identification and retribution. Here is her story

LAST Saturday night I made three mistakes countless teenagers before me have made — and I nearly paid dearly for it. I went out for a party without my cellphone, I drank too much and I lost my inhibitions.

The whole thing began when I met a guy in a Durban club. I’ll call him Dave. He was very good-looking, I was very drunk, so it didn’t take much to get me into his car. Under normal circumstances, this is not something I would do — we’ve all been warned about strangers, after all.

While we were in the car, things steadily got more heated. It reached a point at about 1 am where we were both undressed from the waist up, we were kissing and grabbing as teenagers do, when there was a knock on the window and a torch light shone through as the door opened. A man dressed in police uniform told us to get out of the car and said we were under arrest for public indecency.

I got out the car in complete shock and started to insist he let me stay at the club as I didn’t have my cellphone with me and I needed to tell my friends inside what was happening. He refused and began to get increasingly aggressive with me. I started crying and begged him to let me go. He ignored my pleas and strapped a handcuff to my wrist and began to drag me to the police truck. I started to cause more of a scene, refusing to get in the truck. For some reason he backed off. This is when I noticed the second policeman talking to Dave and his friend, who I’ll call Kyle.

One of the policemen forced Dave, Kyle and me into Dave’s car and said he was taking us to the police station to be charged, which I gathered to be Durban Central Police Station. Once there, we were made to sit in Dave’s car, in the car park. Kyle and I stayed in the car with one of the policemen for what felt like roughly two hours while Dave spoke outside the car with the other officer.

Dave finally came back to the car with the other policeman and grabbed his phone. The policeman then stood outside with Dave as he tried to phone a family member to organise money for something. I now was certain something was very wrong and I started to panic even more. The policeman who was in the car with Kyle and I started to explain that Dave and I would be put in prison until Tuesday (this being Sunday morning) and then we would have to go to court, hire lawyers and pay various fees. He explained this would ultimately cost R8 000. As if they were doing us a favour, he told us if we could get the R8 000 now, we could pay our “bail fees” and leave.

There was no doubt in my mind this was a bribe, and it was one I was more than willing to pay in order to avoid getting a criminal record and ruining my future.

Around this point in the evening a man opened the door to my side of the car. He was dressed in a T-shirt and jeans and tried to pull me out the car, saying he was taking me to the police truck. I absolutely refused to go, saying he was not wearing a uniform and that I did not trust him. I was certain this man would rape me. After threatening to charge me with obstruction of justice, he left us and we went back to waiting in the car and Dave continued phoning people to try organise the money. All I had on me was R50 and no credit card.

Next, Dave got back in the car with us and the other policeman in uniform joined us. We drove to an ATM to draw the money. The policemen stayed in the car and Dave went to the ATM. He returned after about five minutes to explain that his card had a daily withdrawal limit of R1 200. The policemen were very angry and didn’t believe him, so they kept sending him back to the ATM to get receipts. Eventually they accepted that Dave was telling the truth and they drove us back to the police station. Dave gave me the money to put in my handbag.

When we were back at the police station, the man without a uniform returned to tell us he did not accept bribes and stated we were going to jail. We were so confused.

Dave got out the car again to talk to one of the uniformed policemen. He phoned his aunt and she said she would bring the extra money to the police station. After that phone call, Dave and I were taken into the back of the police truck. It was now about 5.30 am. We drove around for a while. I do not know the Durban area at all, but we definitely drove past a sign saying “Berea”. I was extremely panicked because I didn’t know where we were going. I honestly thought I was being taken either to be raped or killed, and I was hoping for the latter.

We arrived at a second police station and the one uniformed man told us to get out the car. He asked us where the money was and I told him it was in my bag. He told us to get back in the truck and drop the money in a tyre which was lying in the back. I did as he said and then he pointed to Dave’s car, which Kyle had followed us in, and told us to leave. We left with Kyle immediately and drove away in a state of relief and shock.

Ultimately, I made those three mistakes and it led to the worst night of my life. I know I was extremely lucky and it could have ended up in so many ways I can’t bear to think of. This is a warning to teenagers everywhere that even in the police there are people who will try to extort you and cannot be trusted.

We are targets. Know your rights. Ask for identification — there should be a visible name above the officer’s pocket. As a woman, you can ask for a policewoman to escort you. No male policeman, or other man, may ever touch you against your will. Be safe.

• Police spokesperson Colonel Jay Naicker said despite the pair’s predicament, they should have refused the bribe and challenged the officers to charge them.

“People shouldn’t pay bribes. Rather admit to the offence, because that is a road you don’t want to go down. Tell the officer you want to open a docket.”

He said police don’t detain people on such minor offences. Instead, they get charged and released.

And if one feels threatened, ask to speak to the station commander.

“They are also entitled to call a family member. They have their rights.”

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