Mthwalume murders: Cele confirms one suspect found hanged in police cells, while second released

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Police Minister Bheki Cele visits the crime scene in Mthwalume following the discovery of five bodies of women over the past few days.
Police Minister Bheki Cele visits the crime scene in Mthwalume following the discovery of five bodies of women over the past few days.
PHOTO: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart
  • One of the two Mthwalume murder suspects allegedly committed suicide on the day they were expected to make their first court appearance.
  • The matter was not heard, apparently due to insufficient evidence.
  • Police Minister Bheki Cele says the case has been handed over to IPID for further investigations.

One of the two Mthwalume murder suspects allegedly committed suicide inside a police holding cell on Monday, while the second suspect has been released due to lack of evidence.

The two were expected to appear in the Scottburgh Magistrate's Court on Monday morning.

The two murder suspects, aged 35 and 41, were first taken in for questioning and then arrested on Friday following the discovery of a fifth woman's body last week.

According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, who visited the area, the main suspect hanged himself in one of the police holding cells after he had pointed out where they had buried the bodies.

Police Minister Bheki Cele visits the crime scene
Police Minister Bheki Cele visits the crime scene in Mthwalume following the discovery of five bodies of women over the past few days in KZN.

It is alleged that he hanged himself with a string from his tracksuit pants.

"The deceased was arrested, as he was a suspect in the Hibberdene, five counts of murder case. He was detained by [Scottburgh] SAPS from the 13 August 2020," Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) spokesperson Ndileka Cola said.

"Yesterday, he was booked out for confession procedure, the normal process of having a suspect medically checked before and after the [confession] was undertaken," Cola said.

She said that the deceased had been returned to his cell just after midnight, as the night shift was handing over to the day shift, and that he had been found hanging in the shower.

"The paramedics, and later the pathologist, declared him dead on the scene."

READ | KZN south coast killings: 2 taken for questioning in connection with bodies found

While addressing a crowd who had gathered outside the court, Cele said that the man had been expected to take the police officers to other crime scenes where more bodies had allegedly been buried, eNCA reported.

The two were facing murder charges, however the court matter did not go ahead as planned.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), chief prosecutor Jabulani Cebekhulu was instructed by KwaZulu-Nata DPP, advocate Elaine Zungu, to study the dockets in conjunction with the SAPS investigating team.

ALSO READ | Mthwalume murders: We couldn't just accept women getting murdered – Cele

"On studying the docket, he decided that there was a case against one of the suspects and insufficient evidence against the other suspect," NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said in a statement.

"It was brought to our attention that the suspect who was supposed to appear in court this morning, passed away in police custody. Thus he will no longer be appearing," added Kara.

Cele said that the murder case was currently under investigation and that IPID was also involved in the probe.

The bodies of the five women – aged between 16 and 36 – were all discovered in a sugarcane field in the Mthwalume area between April and August.

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