Maritzburg Sun (South Africa)
Cop pleads guilty to PMB advocate’s death
Saps warrant officer Muzi Euchalystius Mkhize (57), pleaded guilty to charges of culpable homicide in the freak accident that killed senior state Advocate Addelaid Ann Ferreira Watt (62) during court proceedings in 2019.
In November 2019, the Pietermaritzburg advocate sustained fatal gunshot wounds after a loaded gun went off in the courtroom.
Watt was the prosecuting officer in a farm robbery case in the uMzimkhulu Regional Court.
The firearm had been entered into evidence, but the complainant in the matter asked that the firearm be returned to him as he feared for his life following the robbery. His request was acceded to, however,
the firearm was returned to court as an exhibit that day.
In his plea statement, Mkhize admitted he had failed to check whether the returned firearm was loaded or safe, as he erroneously believed that the firearm was not working. He said that during the court proceedings, he had dozed off.
When court proceedings adjourned, he was startled and lost control of the shotgun. In an attempt to regain control a shot was discharged, hitting Watt, who was seated diagonally across from him. She was shot in her hip and thigh, and died in hospital from a loss of blood.
Mkhize admitted that, in trying to regain control of the firearm, he unintentionally pressed the trigger or caused the firearm to discharge a round. Mkhize conceded that his conduct was negligent and stated that he did not intend to shoot or injure Watt, with whom he had enjoyed a fruitful working relationship.
He was sentenced by the Scottburgh Regional Court to six years’ imprisonment, wholly suspended for five years with the following conditions: A R20 000 fine be paid to a shelter for abused women and children in Pietermaritzburg on or before March 11; and that he is not convicted of a similar offence during the period of suspension.
Prior to accepting the guilty plea, the State, represented by Senior State Advocate Naveen Sewparsat, consulted with the Investigating Officer and Watt’s daughter, Lindsay Ann Hawkins, with both parties agreeing to accept the plea.
In her victim impact statement, Hawkins described the devastation of losing her mother. She described her mother as “a kind and vibrant person who lit up the room when she walked in”. She added that she has suffered psychological, emotional and physical trauma, as she and her mother were inseparable.
In a media statement, a spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority welcomed the finalisation of the matter. “We hope that this will help bring closure to Watt’s family. Watt was stationed at the Pietermaritzburg office of the Director of Public Prosecution in KwaZulu-Natal. She was an asset to the organisation and is dearly missed by her colleagues and friends.”