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Durban - The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) has launched a murder investigation into the death of a Durban woman whose car was allegedly shot at by pursuing officers as she drove home from Port Shepstone.
During the shooting, Leanne Douglas was reportedly on the phone with her mother, Leonie Lukin, telling her that police were chasing her and that she was scared.
Lukin, 72, said: “There was a commotion and I could hear it. Then she told me they wanted to kill her,” she said.
“I heard the bullets whizz and I asked her what was going on and she said, ‘Mom, they are shooting at me’. That was the last I heard from her.”
Douglas, 45, died after at least five police bullets struck her blue Chevrolet Spark on Sunday night, causing it to flip on the N2 near eMkhomazi (Umkomaas).
The officers allegedly involved in the incident allegedly also tried to hide the shooting but their story came apart when their station commander spotted the bullet holes in the car and questioned them about it.
Douglas, described by friends as an outgoing, bubbly person, was the owner of the Red Rooster restaurant at Spillers Wharf in Port Shepstone. She was driving home to Durban to surprise her mother when the incident occurred.
Lukin, who was still trying to come to terms with her daughter’s death, said on Wednesday that she was angry and wanted the officers to face the full might of the law.
“It seems as if the police are becoming a law unto themselves. Something has to be done about them,” she said. “They cannot go around shooting people for no reason.”
Lukin travelled with an undertaker from Durban to eMkhomazi on Wednesday to fetch her daughter’s body from the government mortuary.
“She was my only daughter and my entire life. She phoned me to say she was coming home,” Lukin said.
Since opening her restaurant in Port Shepstone, Douglas lived in Southport but would often visit her mother in Musgrave.
Ipid’s spokesman, Moses Dlamini, said a group of policemen driving in three vehicles – two of them marked and one white, unmarked VW Golf – spotted Douglas driving towards eMkhomazi when they tried to stop her.
“It is alleged that the woman was driving recklessly. When the police tried to stop her she allegedly sped off and a chase ensued,” Dlamini said.
“The policemen fired shots at the woman’s vehicle and she lost control of the vehicle and it overturned. The woman died on the scene. It is alleged that the policemen reported just the accident and concealed the fact that they had shot at the deceased’s vehicle.
“When the vehicle was towed away, the station commander noticed bullet holes on the vehicle and he called the suspects to get clarity – they could not give a reasonable explanation for the shooting.”
Dlamini said the station commander then informed Ipid of the incident.
He said a docket of murder and defeating the ends of justice had been opened, and that investigations were continuing. No arrests had been made.
Lukin said she was distraught and wanted answers.
“I am hoping the post-mortem can shed some light. From what I was told there were at least five shots fired at the car, most of them at the back of the car and one on the side,” she said.
“I am not sure if it was that that killed her or the fact that the car flipped. I need answers and someone has to be held accountable.”
Police spokesman, Colonel Jay Naicker, said police from eMkhomazi and surrounding areas were called by their Port Shepstone colleagues after a car chase ensued on the N2.
“When the Umkomaas police arrived on the scene they found the vehicle overturned on the road and the woman had died on the scene,” he said, adding that when the allegations were made, Ipid was asked to investigate.
“We are going to co-operate fully with Ipid in their investigation,” Naicker said. “We don’t want to speculate as to what happened.”