Monday, May 23, 2011

Found Dead in Cell

May 23 2011

For Pretoria mother Annemie Olivier the night of October 4 will be etched in her mind forever.
For the past eight months Olivier has been waiting for news on how her daughter, Ané Smit, 22, a heroin addict, was able to hang herself in the cells of the Pretoria North Magistrate’s Court. 

Court cells should be monitored and detainees are not meant to have anything on them in the cells with which they could hang themselves, such as shoelaces, long-sleeved tops, belts or ties.
Smit apparently used a pyjama top. 

Her mother blames her death on police negligence. When Smit was arrested on an apparent theft charge she was not wearing pyjamas, her mother says. 

Adding to the Olivier family’s heartache is that it appears that the police investigation into her daughter’s death has hit a stop, with police saying they are awaiting the post-mortem results. 

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Mathews Nkoadi said the case was under investigation and the post-mortem results pending. 

He was unable to say when the post-mortem results would be known or why, eight months later, police did not yet have them. 

This is despite Moses Dlamini, spokesman for the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), which investigates all deaths in police custody, having said that the doctor who performed the post-mortem had concluded “the death is consistent with hanging and no indications were found that suggested foul play”. 

An angry Olivier said she just wanted answers. “How do I explain this to her daughter?
“How do I tell her that I don’t know how her mother was able to kill herself when she should not have been able to? “How do I tell her that the police and the court officials should have been looking after her, but didn’t? 

“Now the people investigating don’t seem to care. What kind of thing is that to tell a young girl?”

Fighting back tears as Smit’s two-year-old daughter, Johané, pointed to a picture of her mother on her funeral programme and said “Mama”, Olivier said all she wanted were answers.
“I just want to know what happened. I just want to know how she could kill herself when she was meant to be watched. 

“I have asked to see the police photos of Ané and her post-mortem report, but the police refuse. What are they hiding? Why are they not showing me these things?
“If no crime was committed and they have done nothing wrong, why not show me the reports?” 

Olivier said that she contacted the court to find out what had happened in the case. 

“When I phoned the chief magistrate, he told me he had sent her to prison for six months.
“When I made enquiries with the prosecutor about where my daughter was and when I could see her, he said he didn’t know she had been sent to jail.
“The next thing (there) was a policeman at my door telling me my daughter was dead. 

“I went to the investigating officer and he told me he couldn’t help me because he didn’t have the docket with him. 

“He said the docket was at his house because he was afraid it would get stolen. 

“Since when do investigating officers take suicide dockets home? Since when do people steal suicide dockets? 

“I don’t doubt that Ané committed suicide. 

“I just want answers about how she could kill herself when the police should have been looking after her. 

“To them she is just another dead person in a cell, just another number, but to me she is not. She is my daughter. I want answers so we can get on with our lives.” 

Dlamini said Smit was alone in the court holding cell. 

“The scene was visited by the ICD’s Gauteng provincial office… The cause of death was indicated as being consistent with hanging. 

“This case is closed as there is no police involvement in this matter. The inquest case is under investigation by the SAPS.” 

Dlamini said Olivier had not been shown “scene photos” as police had yet to finalise the investigation.  

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