Westville warders in dock

2010-12-02 00:00

FIVE prison warders appeared in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court yesterday in connection with the death of an inmate in Westville Prison.

The five are Sean Graig Halkett (32), Nkulukeko Brown Nkosi (51), Lizo David Ngxebeza (43), Mzameni Isaac Msomi (37) and Lebohang Phule (30).

They were not asked to plead.

Two of the five appeared in their official uniforms while the other three wore civilian clothes. They looked calm as the magistrate read them their rights.

They are charged with culpable homicide after they allegedly assaulted an inmate, Sipho Phiri (22), who died as a result of severe head injuries.

The court heard that the warders had been serving breakfast when a fight broke out between the inmates. Phiri was stabbed in the shoulder.

As the warders separated the fighting prisoners, Phiri allegedly tried to stab his attacker with what looked like a glass shard.

The warders alleged they assaulted Phiri after he had resisted their attempts to disarm him.

The court heard that Phiri was assaulted with batons and that the postmortem had found that his death was not as a result of the stabbing on his shoulder but that it was caused by the later assault.

Phiri was serving time for robbery.

The state indicated that it would call other prisoners and warders who witnessed the assault to testify against the five accused.

It said the doctor who first examined Phiri before he died would also be asked to testify about the nature of his injuries.

Asked why it had opted to charge the five with culpable homicide instead of murder charge, the state said that it is consolidating the evidence and does not rule out changing the charge to one of murder.

The magistrate said the accused may have exceeded the grounds of meting out discipline against Phiri when he refused to hand over the shard of glass.

However, she added, it was not the intention of any court to refuse bail as a punitive measure.

The five were each granted bail of R3 000, although they said they could only afford R1 000.

The state did not oppose bail.

The case was postponed to February 2 to allow time for further investigations and for the accused to get legal representation.

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