Pretoria - The High Court in Pretoria has ordered that R370 000 in damages be paid to the family of an Mpumalanga farmer who was shot dead by an escaped prisoner with a policeman's service pistol, The Citizen reported on Friday.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa was ordered to pay R280 000 in damages to the farmer's wife, Cornelia Bezuidenhout, and R90 000 to his daughter Beulah Bezuidenhout.

Johannes Bezuidenhout was shot dead in front of his wife on a farm in Groblersdal in July 2002.

The gunman, David Mammushi, had escaped from police custody at the Sekhukhune Magistrate's Court, where he was to appear on a charge of rape.

During the escape, Mammushi overpowered a police sergeant and took his service pistol which he used two days later to kill Bezuidenhout during an armed robbery.

Mammushi was rearrested and convicted in 2005 of murder.

Judge Andre Louw told the court, it was common cause that the police had been negligent in failing to keep Mammushi in custody, and allowing him to escape with a weapon, according to the newspaper. - Sapa