Butchery staff traumatised

2003-05-06 16:34

Richard's Bay - Butchery staff at the Richard's Bay Shoprite Checkers branch had to receive intensive counselling on Tuesday after a man cut off his own head using an electric meat saw.

It is believed that the man had tried to do the same thing at another major supermarket earlier in the day, but had been chased away by staff.

The horrific incident happened near to closing time on Monday afternoon when section staff were tidying up at the back of the butchery section.

Umfolozi police spokesperson Superintendent Jay Naicker said Emmanuel Gumbi, 31, an unemployed and unmarried resident of Bhejana township in the Nseleni district of Richards Bay walked into the store by himself at 16:30 and then walked behind the counter in the butchery section.

"Witnesses said Gumbi switched on the band saw machine, then placed the back of his head onto the blade. The blade cut about half way through his neck before his body fell to the floor," he said.

The butchery was covered in Gumbi's blood, which splattered as far as 3m. Despite the trauma, staff had the butchery windows covered within minutes.

The butchery section was closed on Tuesday while traumatised staff received counselling.

Naicker said Gumbi's family had spoken to police late on Monday evening and had reported that Gumbi had shown no signs of stress, nor had he been receiving any treatment for any mental disturbances.

Richards Bay Community Police Forum chair Dave Savides said he had arrived at Shoprite Checkers to see butchery staff being escorted away in tears.

He said he was aware that Gumbi had attempted to open a charge of intimidation at a local police station.

"He apparently said that a gang of men was after him but he was not being coherent so police assumed that he was drunk. They offered to take him home but he said he wanted to go off somewhere else."

Savides said Gumbi had earlier tried to get into the butchery section at another supermarket but that butchery staff had chased him away.

Gumbi apparently spoke to security guards moments before the incident, and told them he was scared to go outside because he was followed and there were people waiting for him.

Dr Doug Wassenaar of the University of Natal's psychology department said Gumbi fell into the high suicide risk age group for young males aged between 25 and 34.

Wassenaar has published several research papers on the demographics of suicide.

He said men were four times more likely to commit suicide than women and were also more likely to use lethal, body mutilating means, while women were more likely to choose overdoses of medicine.

"A psychological autopsy is needed where friends and family are interviewed to establish sleep patterns, energy levels and mood swings.

While any serious mental disorder increases the chances of suicide if one is depressed, it is likely in this case that a recent loss or lack of self worth due to being unemployed were possible reasons for the suicide."

Wassenaar also pointed out that the suicide highlighted new demographic data which suggested that suicide was not necessarily more common amongst white males, as had previously been thought.

"Although, whether this is a case of us having better data than 10 years ago, is unclear. The rates between black and white males seem to be drawing level," he said.

The Shoprite group offered its sincerest condolences to Gumbi's family and friends.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them," Brian Weyers, a spokesperson for the supermarket group said. - African Eye News Service