So said Philani Ntuli, the alleged murderer of Durban North woman, Siam Lee, when he appeared in Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday.
A well-dressed Ntuli stood in the dock and articulately represented himself. This was after the court had heard that his lawyer, Carl van der Merwe, had withdrawn from the case.
Ntuli told magistrate Mohamed Motala that after his arrest he had been repeatedly assaulted, and suffocated with plastic bags.
“I was asked to confess to a crime I don’t know about or be taken out in a body bag... I no longer want to remain at the Durban North police station because I fear for my life,” Ntuli said, requesting to be moved to Westville Prison.
Ntuli has been charged with the kidnapping and murder of Lee, who went missing on January 4 from a house in Durban North. Six days later the charred remains of a body that had been dumped on a farm in New Hanover were identified as Lee’s by her mother Carmen.
But DNA results are yet to be finalised, and the body has not been handed over to the family for burial.
In a packed courtroom on Friday, Ntuli said his case had been “sabotaged” from the time of his arrest.
“When they arrested me, they broke into my home,” Ntuli told the court. “One of the investigating officers still has my key. My goods were stolen and my furniture was damaged. They made me change my clothing because they had beaten me up,” said Ntuli.
He told the court that he had bruises all over his body from the assault, and lifted up his shirt sleeve to show the magistrate. Earlier, prosecutor Surekha Marimuthu, had asked the court for Ntuli to be remanded in custody for a further seven days to conduct investigations into additional charges he may face.
She advised that the case had been handed over to the provincial task team (PTT) to investigate.
When the magistrate subsequently introduced Ntuli to the new investigating officer who is from the PTT, Warrant Officer Rajan Govender, Ntuli sarcastically replied: “He hasn’t come to see me yet.”
Magistrate Motala grinned and replied: “I am sure he will visit you soon”.
The calm Ntuli looked towards the gallery several times to smile and wave at relatives before complaining that “no ID parades and all that jazz” had happened.
Motala approved the State’s application for a seven-day remand and declined Ntuli’s request that he be held in Westville Prison. He ruled that Ntuli’s constitutional rights be protected and ordered that his allegations of assault be fully investigated.
About a dozen protesters from the Democratic Alliance’s Women’s Network held a demonstration outside the court, carrying posters with slogans such as #NoBail, #JusticeForSiam and #MaximumSentences.
After the court adjourned, Ntuli’s mother said she was deeply hurt after hearing Ntuli talk about being beaten up in custody.
“They should really consider moving him from the Durban North police station because they will kill him even before his innocence is proven. The remarks we get from the police when we go to visit him are horrible. I really hope he gets bail next week,“ said Ntuli’s cousin Sandile.