Picture: Ichigo121212/Pixabay
Picture: Ichigo121212/Pixabay

Police watchdog investigation after sex worker dies in custody in Mowbray

By Lisa Isaacs Time of article published Jun 2, 2020

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Cape Town – The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is investigating the death of a sex worker while in police custody at Mowbray police station in April.

This after the Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce, Sisonke, the National Movement of Sex Workers and the Triangle Project called for an investigation into the death of Robyn Montsumi.

Ipid spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said: “We received this death in police custody note of a 39-year-old woman in Mowbray police station. Our investigation is ongoing. Nobody has been arrested or held responsible for the death of the woman.”

In a statement, the organisations said the circumstances of Montsumi’s death had raised questions.

Montsumi was arrested for the alleged possession of drugs and detained at Mowbray police station on April 9. “The expectation was that she would be released on bail in terms of the lockdown regulations, but that did not happen.

“Robyn’s partner reported that he and some of her friends from the area were able to communicate with her by shouting from outside and she would call back on how she was doing. She said on Saturday (April 11) she felt ill and was vomiting.

“According to her friends she did not respond on Sunday morning and when her partner got to the police station there was an ambulance and bystanders told him that it was Robyn inside and that she had hanged herself,” the organisations said.

A lobbying officer went inside the police station and was told that Montsumi had been taken to Groote Schuur hospital.

“Robyn’s family went to Mowbray police station and was told that the detective who came to the station just before noon to book Robyn found her body in the cells.”

The news of Montsumi’s death was devastating, the organisations said.

“Those who interacted with her prior to her arrest remember her as being upbeat and the reports of an apparent suicide are baffling.”

They asked why bail was not fixed for Montsumi for offences in terms of Schedule 2 Part I, as per the lockdown regulations issued by the Minister of Justice on March 31. 

“It was reported by her friends that she said she was ill. Did she report that she was ill, was that noted by police officers and if so, what was the nature of her illness and was she provided with medical care?” the organisations asked.

“Robyn was a sex worker and part of the LGBTQI+ family - marginalised key populations whose deaths and violations are often ignored. We celebrate her life, mourn her passing and want to honour her memory by giving her the justice she deserves.”

Police spokesperson Andrè Traut referred questions to Ipid.

Cape Times

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