Johannesburg - The Police oversight unit, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), is investigating claims that a Mbombela man was assaulted during the search for the slain Hillary Gardee.
Njabulo Magudulela, 26, who resides in KaMagugu, just a few streets away from the Gardee’s home, is accusing police of coming into his house and terrorising his family.
Njabulo, who had spent the night of 30 April out drinking with friends, was dropped off at home in his mother's car, a Toyota Etios. Njabulo had earlier been involved in an argument with his friends over who should drive as he was too intoxicated.
Following up on information they had received about a person who was seen being pushed into a vehicle matching the description of Njabulo’s mother’s Etios, plain-clothed police descended upon Njabulo’s home on the morning of 1 May.
Njabulo alleges he jolted awake when he was dragged out of bed by his legs. He also alleges that an officer shoved his mother and slapped her in the face in an attempt to prevent her from recording the arrest on her cellphone.
Describing the alleged assault, he said: “They punched me in the face, and one of the officers put his boot on my neck while I was on the ground. They kept asking me about Hillary Gardee, whom I did not know until her pictures started circulating in our neighbourhood WhatsApp group.”
He further states that he was handcuffed and taken to the Nelspruit police station, where he was interrogated.
In a video, Njabulo’s mother is heard screaming and asking for someone to do something. Njabulo is also seen handcuffed and being walked towards a police vehicle.
Njabulo is said to have suffered bruises to his face and arms and feet.
Both Njabulo and his mother have subsequently opened cases of common assault against the officers involved at the Nelspruit Police Station. The matter was then referred to Ipid by the SAPS.
Ipid spokesperson Lizzy Suping said: “We have received complaints about the assault of the suspect by the police. The Ipid investigation is under way. We can pronounce on the outcome once (it) is concluded.”
Three suspects have been arrested in connection with Hillary Gardee’s murder.
The three men appeared in the Mbombela Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 9 May.
Sipho Lawrence Mkatshwa, Philemon Lukhele, and Mduzuzi Gama are charged with murder, rape, conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping and possession of illegal firearms.
Court documents reveal that the accused may have been planning the heinous crime as far back as January 2022.
Gardee was reported missing on Friday, April 29. She was reportedly last seen leaving a shopping complex in Mbombela at approximately 5.30pm.
A group of passers-by who were making their way to work found her body in a field Some 40km outside Mbombela.
An autopsy revealed Gardee, 28, was shot in the back of the head and stabbed multiple times.
The motive for her killing is still unknown.