Doctors failed axe murderer, says mom

2012-01-31 22:47

Durban - Doctors assessing former Blue Bulls flanker Phindile Ntshongwana for mental illness had failed his family, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court heard on Tuesday.

"I feel the doctors let us down. I was with them on a number of occasions crying out about my son's condition," Nomafa Letlaka testified.

The court was trying to determine whether Ntshongwana, who was in court, was fit to stand trial after allegedly killing four people in Durban. He also faced two charges of attempted murder, one of kidnapping and one of rape.

Letlaka told the court her son was diagnosed with schizophrenia and a bipolar condition in December 2009 at Durban's RK Khan Hospital.

"After he was discharged, I noticed that he was not the same person."

She said after the diagnosis her son would always lock himself in his room. He told her people were following him and wanted to kill him. One evening, Letlaka was on her way home from lectures when her car had a flat tyre. She called her son for help.

"Don't think I'm going to stay here for five minutes. I can't change the wheel for you. I'm driving home now because I'm scared," he told her.

Not responding to treatment

Letlaka told the court that when she became concerned about her son's behaviour she called the Montclair police and ask them to convince her son to be taken for an assessment at a hospital.

Ntshongwana was admitted to the RK Khan Hospital in July 2010. Doctors told Letlaka he was not responding to treatment.

"He was transferred to St George's hospital, but he absconded from the ambulance and went to a friend who stayed in the Transvaal [Gauteng]," Letlaka said.

He later went to his aunt in Cape Town. His mother told her to take him to hospital and to ask the police to escort him there because he needed treatment. He was taken to Valkenberg Psychiatric Hospital.

Letlaka said when Ntshongwana returned home towards the end of 2010 he continued locking himself in his room.

"This does not mean he never left the house. He would go to the shops and church as I had given him the use of my car," she said.

Letlaka described her son as a religious man, but said she was concerned when she would find him reading the Bible in his study at 05:00.

She said his strange behaviour continued. He was again admitted to St George's hospital on December 23 2010. He was discharged on January 3 2011.

"I told the doctors I was not able to supervise his treatment because he was locking himself in his room. Still, he was not admitted to hospital for a long period."

She said when the police searched Ntshongwana's room they found tablets on his table which indicated he had not been taking the medication for his illness.

The trial continues on Wednesday.

  • Mel - 2012-01-31 23:05

    What about his victims families!! What a selfish selfish woman.

      Barefoot - 2012-02-01 05:53

      I'd rather think not selfish just stating the facts i take it you don't know the effects of mental illness, i also used to think mentally ill people should be held accountable now i know better but even if he was declared mentally unfit he was not going to be released but rather locked up in the maximum section of a psychiatric hospital

      Silvana - 2012-02-01 06:18

      No she's not selfish, she's a mother. What he did was ghastly and he does need to be punished. But it's not the doctor's who failed him, it's the system. A court cannot institutionalise a person unless they can prove the that a person is a danger to society.

      Leroy - 2012-02-01 08:48

      no need to prove anything, its a fact that he is! are 4 lives not enough?

  • Gail - 2012-02-01 15:07

    This is the tragedy of having a family member suffering from a mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar. It doesn't simply affect the victim but society as a whole. In this particular case he was fine under supervision but the moment he was returned to his home environment he was too volatile and strong to be supervised by family. Sadly these are the hardest of patients to nurse and there is a critical shortage of people skilled and physically strong enough to keep them medicated correctly. I am not going to blame our Health department exclusively here because nursing like teaching is not a glamorous nor well remunerated position and so places for people who are a danger to themselves and society are limited. Sadly it sound like this guy fell through the crack/chasm because he was manageable when drugged and constantly behind locked doors to which only the health workers had keys and the result is that he killed 4 people. Vakenburg does have a forensic facility where convicted and diagnosed people can be cared for but it is not sufficient for the numbers of people who are genuinely mentally ill. My sympathies lie with the family of this man as much as they do with the four murdered victims. None of them would have died if the State could afford to keep them on drugs to control their behaviour in a place where when they became violent they could be contained and damage limited. Any drug has a limited time efficacy and needs to be taken under controlled circumstances.

  • Gail - 2012-02-01 15:24

    Under law you may not commit an adult to a psychiatric centre against their own wishes. Not all mental illnesses result in murder as this one did and according to the psychiatric evaluation he was of sound mind when he killed his victims. His mother could not have him committed because there is limited place to hold innocent mentally ill people for protracted periods. Once he was on meds he was docile and withdrawn but couldn't be left alone. A chronically ill person with mental illness has to be totally sedated and restrained if necessary and there IS NO CURE. It's akin to sticking your finger in a leak in your water tank. Unless there is a permanent solution it will continue to leak and deteriorate. The illness is acute but only controllable in an institution where once the symptoms are controlled you are sent home because it doesn't kill you and preventing the victim from acting out is too costly to keep them locked away forever. It is an abuse of human rights to keep someone incarcerated unless they commit a crime first or are willing to go in when they start showing symptoms of their own free will. The State has no alternative at that point but to lock this sick person in a jail cell for life. Seems to me that is unfair to everyone in society. If you admit yourself to a mental institution you may choose when you wish to be released although they will warn you that should you not follow the regimen religiously they have the right to refuse you. It's a catch-22.

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