Cape Town – The family of Jill-Paula Fernandez has been forced to lay a complaint with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate over the actions of an investigating officer that led to the case against her alleged killer being dropped.
The 49-year-old Fernandez's case is one of many which led to Moms Move for Justice marching to Parliament on August 1, delivering a memorandum with a list of demands to address their grievances, among others, about justice being denied.
Her boyfriend, Patrick Hendricks, 49, had allegedly beaten her with a concrete slab in a Bonteheuwel street – causing her to swallow her false teeth – in front of witnesses three days before Christmas last year. Hendricks was out on parole for rape at the time.
Despite the magistrate warning the investigating officer, known only as Sergeant Esterhuizen, that the case would be thrown out if he didn't submit a post-mortem report and collect crucial evidence and information from witnesses, the officer failed to comply.
This led to the case being removed from the Bishop Lavis Magistrate's Court roll yesterday to the dismay of the Fernandez family, without the magistrate even reprimanding the investigating officer for obstructing justice.
Fernandez's brother Kurt had even gone to the Tygerberg Hospital mortuary in May to fetch the report himself.
The pathologist confirmed that the report had been completed but that it could only be released to the investigating officer, who hadn't made an application to collect it. This went on for months despite complaints from the Fernandez family to the investigating officer's bosses.
Community activist Roegshanda Pascoe didn't pull any punches in condemning the actions of Esterhuizen and the magistrate, telling the Cape Times on Thursday: "I am very angry. Blatant corruption in our faces. A concern for me is that the magistrate didn't even reprimand the investigating officer for obstructing justice.
"Now there are question marks about the magistrate in my mind because he didn't even keep the case on the court roll, nothing of the sort. How in heaven's name can that happen.
"The devastated Fernandez family are laying a charge with Ipid. We shouldn't be silent as a people because it's not only about Jill Fernandez, it's about many cases. There are many cases in our communities where people are confronted by this lack of justice.
"The man murdered Jill in the street in front of people. He didn't care and he was on parole for rape. So how can the magistrate just let that man walk out on the street.
"Jill's brother went to fetch the post-mortem report himself at Tygerberg Hospital because the judge kept on asking for the report.
"When he arrived at Tygerberg Hospital, the pathologist said to him that the report has been completed but they are not able to release it to him. The investigating officer should come and fetch it himself and that is how the process works.
"In court, the investigating officer lied and said the report isn't ready and he hadn't received it yet. This went on for about two months.
"So clearly he never went to fetch the pathologist's report. He didn't go to any of the witnesses that had seen what happened to investigate the case.
"The investigating officer kept making the same excuse because the judge was really relying on the pathologist's report on the injuries which led to Jill's death.
"Now clearly you can see the strategy of the investigating officer. That's not poor workmanship. That is a case of not being interested in working.
"For one, his actions are dodgy because he must be on somebody's payroll. Any investigating officer would know that that cannot happen because you won't get a prosecution if you do your work in such a way.
"My second question is: are our magistrates equipped to deal with these kinds of cases if they just throw the case out with no due recourse, giving the investigating officer a slap on the wrist and not keeping him accountable?
"I would even ask if the magistrate isn't involved in committing corruption with the investigating officer? Was there a discussion between them that we don't know about?
"Why would he allow the investigating officer off so easily and then the perpetrator walks out of the court a free man. That for me is an alarming concern and questions need to be asked.
"In the context where we find ourselves, where every day people are being murdered; whether it's in broad daylight, whether it's in the dark, people just go crazy killing each other and think nothing about it, knowing the system isn't going to keep them accountable.
"So what is the message this magistrate is sending to our people: that the justice system is as corrupt as the police system that we are faced with?
"So now people have lost trust in the judiciary system."
The magistrate's decision also sparked outrage on social media, with Gerschwyn Small saying: "I remember at the memorial service (Bonteheuwel ward councillor) Angus McKenzie said loud and clear he will make sure the murderer will be put away. So where is he now – useless government."
Zelda Fisher Lategan posted on Facebook: "The family should report the detective to the Minister of Police. Don't accept this. Take it as far as you can.
"The case has only been scrapped from the role pending information. It can proceed. The family must demand another detective."
To make matters even worse for the Fernandez family, Jill died on exactly the same day three years ago her son Duwayne was shot and killed in an alleged gang-related incident.