How fatal rugby brawl startedComment on this story
Durban - A young woman being accidently bumped by Brett Williams at the King’s Park Stadium is what allegedly triggered an altercation which led to his brutal assault and his death.
It was also revealed on Wednesday night that an important witness to the assault has been the victim of threats to his wife and child.
The woman – a friend of one suspect’s girlfriend – who was bumped is alleged to have complained to one of the assailants about Williams.
The exact nature of what she complained about is unclear at this stage. The incident happened three hours after the Sharks vs Rebels match on March 23.
This forms part of one of the witness statements handed to police this week, a source revealed on Wednesday night.
It has also emerged that CCTV footage, believed to be of the brutal attack, was handed to police by the Sharks management soon after the incident.
A source said adult men who witnessed the incident “wept like babies” when they related details of the assault to police.
“Many of them have been badly affected. More so because they could do nothing to stop the attack.”
Bystanders had been threatened by some of the attackers, he said.
On Monday evening four of the suspects were arrested at their Umbilo and Glenwood homes while a fifth suspect handed himself over to police before midday on Wednesday.
A preliminary post-mortem report had revealed Williams had died of multiple head trauma, KZN police spokesman, Colonel Vincent Mdunge, said.
The five were to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thursday morning on assault and murder charges.
It is believed the State would oppose bail and set out to start showing the attack was premeditated.
Mdunge said on Thursday morning that a high security presence would be deployed inside and outside the court.
He said while they did not anticipate any problems or security breaches, there was concern for the safety of the witnesses.
A sixth man, who went with two of the suspects to the rugby match after they gave him a free ticket, has also given police a statement.
He is expected to turn State witness.
On Sunday, his life and that of his wife and young child were threatened by an anonymous caller – a woman. Another source with close links to the sixth man said he was warned to back off or his wife and child would be in danger.
Mdunge confirmed the threats and said they were being viewed in a very serious light.
“Intimidation and death threats against witnesses will not be tolerated. Those guilty of such acts can rest assured they will not get away with it.”
He said while the witnesses formed a critical part of the investigation into Williams’s death, they had “more than enough incriminating evidence in our hands”.
He said all the witnesses would be given maximum protection and would be placed in witness protection programmes if the need arose.
The source said the sixth man had described the man who choked Williams as a “bulldog” who weighed more than a 120kg.
Williams passed out and had to be revived by paramedics.
The sixth man, who was recovering from an operation, pleaded with his friends and Williams to go their separate ways and not fight.
Minutes later another scuffle broke out.
The source said: “These guys were in a frenzied state. They punched and kicked the deceased repeatedly. Many of the spectators were afraid to intervene because the suspects were well built and extremely aggressive. They even outsized the security guards on duty.”
The suspects allegedly flexed their muscles and warned members of the public to back off.
One of the suspects allegedly picked up a brick and aimed it at Williams’s face.
The sixth man screamed at him to stop and after threatening the crowd with it, it was flung aside.
“The (sixth) man said in his statement to police that they went to a club afterwards and the suspects celebrated the assault. He claimed they high-fived and laughed,” the source said.
Paramedics, who apparently witnessed the assault, administered advanced life support to Williams, but he died at the scene.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Sharks CEO, Brian van Zyl, described Williams’s death as “tragic”. Van Zyl said: “I wish to state again, from both a personal and organisational point of view, how sorry we are that such a senseless death happened at our facility.”
He expressed condolences to Williams’s family and said they were very concerned about the incident and how they could prevent such a tragedy from occurring at their facility in future.
“We have co-operated with the SA Police Service at all stages of their investigation and have provided CCTV footage to assist.”
He said immediate measures would be introduced at King’s Park.
“We will introduce some additional measures including a security hotline where spectators can report any untoward behaviour or possible volatile situations, as well as a trained civilian-clothed reaction unit, which will be on standby to address any possible incidents that may arise.”
This will be in addition to the 400 security personnel who are already deployed on match days.
Van Zyl said the hotline number would be extensively promoted during matches.
“I want to be clear that we will not tolerate misbehaviour in the stadium and will remove any spectator who is provocative and aggressive immediately.”
He said in memory of Williams and the two schoolboy rugby players who died tragically at the weekend, there would be a minute’s silence at Friday’s game.