‘I asked if the gun was safe’

2019-11-22 13:18
State prosecutor Addelaid Watt was killed in a freak accident on Tuesday afternoon.

State prosecutor Addelaid Watt was killed in a freak accident on Tuesday afternoon.

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When a shotgun went off in Umzimkulu court, hitting State Advocate Addelaid Watt (61) on Tuesday afternoon, the presiding magistrate, Motlatsi Moleele, dived under his bench and crawled to his chambers as he was trained to do “if something untoward happens”.

Moments before, as he bowed his head to write that the case was being adjourned to the next day, he heard “a bang” and dived for cover.

“Before I reached my door I heard Addelaid say ‘My leg ... my leg’,” he said.

“I got out and took off my robe and then I went back to court (through the public entrance) to see what was happening. I saw Addelaid still sitting on the chair and my interpreter was trying to help her.”

Moleele said an ambulance was summoned and he called the regional court president and someone in the KZN DPP’s office. “I was holding Addelaid’s hand. She grabbed my hand and she asked me to phone her daughter so I called Lindsay and said Addelaid has been in an accident. She thought I meant a car accident but then I said no, she just got shot in court.”

The still highly traumatised Moleele told The Witness that when he’d looked on Thursday at the chair where Watt had been seated when she was shot “everything came back” causing him to adjourn court for the day to see his doctor.

Expressing his grief he said: “Even though I met Addelaid for a very short time I think I had found a friend.”

Describing the tragic events on what started out as a perfectly normal court day, Moleele stressed that Watt herself never handled the shotgun with which she was shot as stated in some media reports he’d read. “She never touched that firearm,” he emphasised.

He said the last time he saw the firearm it was in the possession of the investigating officer who was sitting with it “between his thighs”.

“There were four accused in court, myself, four [defence] attorneys, Addelaid Watt, another prosecutor and the clerk of court. There were members in the [public] gallery as well and Correctional Services because one accused was coming from prison in Pietermaritzburg. The investigating officer was also there.”

Moleele said the case started at 10 am. “If I’m not mistaken around 11 am or so the firearm was introduced as an exhibit. It was handed over to me around that time.

“I did ask if the thing was safe and the investigating officer did confirm that it is safe. It was with the investigating officer .... Addelaid never touched the firearm,” he said.

Moleele said the weapon was handed over to him. “I took note of the firearm and I wrote down the serial numbers ... I kept the firearm. It lay on the bench.

“When I adjourned for lunch I said I am not going to carry the firearm to my chambers as it is an exhibit, and I required it to be moved from the bench for safety reasons. I consider any firearm to be dangerous if it is not mine ... It was taken from the bench and was with the investigating officer over lunch.” Moleele recalled that he met Watt while walking to his car to fetch his lunch and they “talked a bit”.

“It was fun talk ... she was talking to me about us swopping cars as she had a 350 SLK [Mercedes] and I have a C Class. I saw her as a happy, very jovial person and then I saw her motionless and in pain. It is not easy,” he said.

Moleele said the case resumed at 2 pm to continue with cross examination of an accomplice witness. The investigating officer still had the firearm between his thighs sitting in court. It was still there when he was about to adjourn the case, he added. “Unfortunately I bent my head to write ... that was when I heard a bang”.

Moleele said Watt was first taken to Ixopo hospital and he left for home, escorted by police. “I was very traumatised. On my way Lindsay kept phoning me. When last we spoke she said Addelaid was stabilised and being transferred to Pietermaritzburg ... I then slept. In the morning I got the message that she had passed away.”

He said IPID had talked to him on Wednesday and called him on Thursday to arrange to see him again next Tuesday.

“This is a very sad story,” he said.

Moleele said he has been a magistrate for over 20 years and an acting regional court magistrate since 2015.

“I’ve never had such a situation. What troubles me is that this loaded firearm was in my presence. I have asked myself what if it [the shot] had happened when it was in my hand? I’m asking myself a lot of questions.”

Read more on:    addelaid watt  |  pietermaritzburg  |  court shooting

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