Where were men in blue?
TODAY marks the sixth day since the dangerous pair – Lulekani Somtsora and Thabani Mkhokeli – escaped from the Mdantsane Regional Court holding cells.
The two men who allegedly terrorised businesses and residents in a spate of armed robberies and murder in Mdantsane, broke out shortly after consulting with their lawyer.
The police say that they have launched a manhunt and promised to conduct an internal investigation to ascertain whether there was any negligence on the part of the officers who were meant to keep an eye on the pair.
So far, no other information has been forthcoming as Mkhokeli and Somtsora are still on the run.
It seems the police want to lay the blame on the suspected criminals’ lawyer, arguing that he had failed to notify them when he finished consulting with his clients.
Granted, the lawyer should have notified them as per procedure.
But that is besides the point. The police should have been alert at all times and been on guard outside the consulting room.
Had the police been posted outside the consulting room, surely they would have seen anyone who left the room – whether the lawyer notified them or not.
There are too many unanswered questions about the escape. How is it possible for dangerous criminals to freely walk out of the court premises without being detected? It is evident that the police were sleeping on the job.
This escape has serious implications for the prosecution and the entire case.
The life of the state witness and those of other residents are in danger as the two alleged criminals could be anywhere.
The escape came after the police foiled an attempted escape at the Mthatha High Court where awaiting-trial prisoner Luthando Mndayi was gunned down as he charged at the police with a knife. He had earlier wounded a warrant officer as he tried to break free.
Last month, Aliwal North Detective Constable Romeo Sarin Oerson escaped from the East London Magistrate’s Court holding cells with the help of court orderlies.
Oerson, who is facing attempted murder charges after he allegedly shot and wounded his girlfriend in June, was re-arrested within 24 hours after his escape.
The spate of recent escapes show that criminals have little regard for the police. This does not bode well for the criminal justice system. Officials found to have been negligent or who assisted the criminal suspects, should face hefty penalties.