Prison Services rely on cops to conduct autopsies on prisoners

Convicted serial rapist and murderer Thabo Bester at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's court. l SCREENSHOT/NEWZROOM AFRIKA

Convicted serial rapist and murderer Thabo Bester at the Bloemfontein Magistrate's court. l SCREENSHOT/NEWZROOM AFRIKA

Published Apr 27, 2023


Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola has insisted that post-mortems are conducted by the SAPS in cases of unnatural deaths in prison.

He said even in cases where they suspected foul play, they would bring in the SAPS Forensic Services to do post-mortems on inmates.

Lamola was replying to a written parliamentary question from IFP member Professor CT Msimang who questioned how the Department of Correctional Services couldn’t immediately establish that the charred body in Cell 35 at Mangaung prison was not that of Thabo Bester.

It has been confirmed through DNA that the body was that of Katlego Bereng, who lived in Bloemfontein.

It was also reported that Bereng lived in Ipopeng township, which is 2km away from Mangaung prison, where Bester was incarcerated.

Dr Nandipha Magudumana and her two co-accused, Senohe Matsoara, and Tebogo Lipholo, are expected to appear in court next week to apply for bail.

Matsoara worked as a prison warder for G4S security firm and Lipholo was an IT specialist for a company that installed cameras at the prison.

Bester, who is already serving a life sentence for murder and rape, will return to court on May 16.

Msimang wanted to know from Lamola how he would ensure that they conduct post-mortems immediately to prevent what happened to Bester.

It was only after several months that authorities picked up that Bester had escaped and it was not him that was found in Cell 35.

Lamola said in all cases where they had a suspicion of death, a post-mortem was conducted.

“In all instances of deaths where there is doubt that the causes of death cannot be determined/are unknown or foul play is suspected, such deaths are immediately reported in terms of prescribed lines of communication.

“The SAPS are immediately informed for further investigation in terms of the Inquests Act, 1959 (Act No. 58 of 1959), and performing the relevant medico-legal post-mortem.

“Immediately when an unnatural death has occurred, the SAPS are informed to facilitate performance of the required medico-legal post-mortem as a prerequisite for all unnatural deaths.

“The Department of Correctional Services depends entirely on the SAPS (Forensic Unit) for the conducting of autopsies on inmates that expire due to unnatural causes. Follow-up is made with the relevant SAPS Units to ensure that the relevant feedback is provided.

“After receipt of the report, confirmation of the exact cause of death is affirmed and that cause of death is recorded in the respective established death registers,” said Lamola.

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