A top public prosecutor from KwaZulu-Natal who died on Monday after a shooting accident in court, spoke to her daughter on the phone in the ambulance.
“Lindsay waited at the hospital for her mom,” says Karen Stander (58), sister of the deceased, Addelaid Ferreira Watt (62). “My sister called Lindsay from the ambulance but Lindsay couldn’t hear her words because she was mumbling.
“Lindsay saw her mom at the hospital [when] they took her into a trauma room but came out later to say [Addelaid’s] heart had stopped.”
While Karen speaks of her sister, her voice is heavy with emotion. When YOU spoke to her she was on her way from Krugersdorp, where she lives, to Pietermaritzburg, where her sister and niece live.
On Monday, Addelaid was prosecuting a suspect in a farm attack in the Ixopo district court when the gun – evidence in the case – she was handling fired a shot and the bullet hit her in the leg.
“Lindsay was hysterical when she called me to say her mom had been shot in court,” Karen says. “We thought because it was in the leg, it wasn’t too serious.”
Karen started calling around to find out more about the shooting. An employee at the high court in Pietermaritzburg confirmed the accident and told her Addelaid had lost a lot of blood. Addelaid had worked for the director of public prosecution in Pietermaritzburg.
Addelaid was initially taken to a local hospital. Karen spoke to a doctor who’d treated her sister and he confirmed she’d lost a lot of blood but that she was conscious, and they were stabilising her.
“My sister insisted on being transferred to the hospital in Pietermaritzburg – I think she was worried Lindsay wouldn’t be able to get to her.
“Addelaid had been a single mom for the greatest part of her daughter’s life. Her three loves in life were her daughter, the law and art.”
Karen’s voice cracks when she talks about the terrible moment when Lindsay called her to say, “My mom is dead.”
Addelaid is the third of her siblings who’s passed away, Karen says. They were six kids. Their mother, Joey Ferreira, who’s 101 years old, lives with Karen in Krugersdorp. Joey suffers from dementia.
“We won’t tell my mom about Addelaid – she’s too old and frail. Not many things make sense to her anymore,” Karen says.
“It’s such a tremendous shock. You know, she could’ve retired but she kept saying she’s not ready to hang up her robes.
“But two weeks ago she told me she thinks she should resign, take her money, go on tour and just enjoy life for a bit.”
Addelaid had studied law at North-West University. Karen says she was entirely committed to her work.
“Some of the things Addelaid had to deal with were hard. She couldn’t help but look at [crime-scene] pictures. Our stepmom and her husband were murdered on their farm in Trompsburg [in the Free State] a few years ago. She even looked at those pictures.
“She just couldn’t block the images from her mind. It’s a heavy cross to bear, especially when it hits close to home.”
Addelaid was the funniest person she knew, Karen says. She managed to find the humour in every situation. “When Addelaid was around, you were always laughing.”
Her sister was close to her family, Karen says. She’d often send pics of her and Lindsay to Karen to show to their mother, and sometimes Joey recognised her.
“My parents divorced when we were young. Addelaid had been my protector and caretaker. She was always there to fix everything. She was everything to me.”
De Wet Potgieter, a friend of Addelaid’s, says he doesn’t understand why the weapon hadn’t been disarmed properly before being handed in as evidence.
“It’s one of the very basic ground rules drilled into everyone who’s ever been in the police or army during basic training,” he says.
There’d been a single bullet left in the gun. Addelaid had accidentally dropped the gun on the ground, a shot was fired and the bullet hit her in the leg.