Durban - Two people, badly hurt when a convict escaped from Vryheid police station 11 years ago, are to be compensated by the State.
In the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Wednesday, the Minister of Safety and Security, represented by his legal team, agreed on the amounts that would be paid to settle the case. These were put to Judge Gregory Kruger to be endorsed.
Richard Grobler’s initial claim was for almost R1 million and Carolina Krause, R3m, but the amounts will remain confidential as part of the settlement agreement. Krause’s ex-husband, Gerhardus, was killed in the shooting in November 2003.
The claim against the minister was successful because it was agreed that the police had been negligent by failing to comply with standing orders in respect of the treatment of people in custody. They also failed to take reasonable steps to ensure awaiting trial prisoners did not escape and that they did not overpower and disarm them.
Also, the police did not take specific precautions when it came to Steve Mtshali, who had a pending case for attempting to escape. The break received widespread publicity at the time. Newspaper articles were contained in the court file.
The drama began on a Saturday afternoon when eight prisoners escaped from the police holding cells after overpowering two policemen. One of prisoners, Mtshali, robbed a policeman of his service pistol.
Mtshali’s first target was a man who tried to stop him from running away near the police station. He fired shots but the man escaped unharmed. He then went on to shoot at a passing motorist who noticed the men running down a Vryheid street.
Unhurt, the motorist drove to the police station to report the incident.
Mtshali then went into the Krauses’ home through the kitchen door. He shot Carolina several times and shot and killed her partner.
Grobler, an off-duty correctional service member, was at home in the same street and heard the gunshots. He went to investigate and found Mtshali hiding behind trees in his garden. He ordered him to leave but was shot in the abdomen and left leg.
Mtshali then hid in an outside toilet and shot at two policemen when they tried to arrest him. He was eventually apprehended.
He later pleaded guilty in the Pietermaritzburg High Court to 10 crimes, including murder and five attempted murders, and was sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment.
He gave no explanation as to why he had attacked the couple.
At the time, Judge Ron McLaren said the escape was well planned and described the murder as “cold-blooded”.
Grobler’s claim for damages was for pain, suffering, shock, medical expenses and the loss of income, while Krause’s was similar, but included the shock and loss of support and companionship of her 58-year-old partner.
Grobler suffers from chronic post-traumatic stress disorder, but was currently in remission
. He said when he turned 40, he would require a left hip replacement, and a total hip revision at 60. His age was not stated in the court documents. He said in court papers he had “reached closure on the surface” by moving house, changing his job and getting married.
Krause, 69, had been a window dresser. After the incident she stopped working. She still suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. She has lost the use of her right shoulder and right upper body.
In five years, she will require a shoulder replacement operation
As part of the settlement, they were not allowed to speak to the media.