Durban - The crime intelligence officer arrested for hijacking a truck while investigating the incident and locked up for five days by his colleagues is suing the minister of police for damages.
Warrant Officer Sudesh Vijai told the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria that his colleagues handcuffed him in the office and threw him into a cell despite him telling them he had an alibi.
The police officers who conducted the arrest, in turn, told the court they did not have time to check out his alibi.
They said they went on the word of the truck driver who pointed out Vijai as one of the culprits.
He was locked up in the Krugersdorp police cells for five days before he was granted bail on his second appearance.
By that time the prosecution realised there was no case and refused to prosecute him.
Vijai’s problems started on October 17, 2015, when a truck was hijacked in Old Pretoria Road, Midrand.
Several hijackings took place in that area at the time because of the easy escape routes.
Midrand police went out to investigate the scene.
Vijai worked on the intelligence side of the investigation.
The truck driver went to the Midrand police station a few days after the hijacking to fetch a copy of the statement he had made.
As he walked in, he noticed Vijai and pointed him out as having been one of the hijackers and driver of the getaway BMW.
Vijai said he was in his office instructing his team regarding gathering information on the hijacking when one of his colleagues came in and told him the driver had pointed him out as one of the hijackers.
Vijai said he laughed it off and thought it was a joke.
He went ahead with his briefing session.
A few hours later his station commander, in the company of three officers, went to his office and told him he was under arrest for the truck hijacking.
They handcuffed him and searched his office and later his home. All this was done without a warrant of arrest.
Vijai said he told his colleagues that he had an alibi and could prove where he was during the hijacking, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
He claimed damages for his unlawful arrest and imprisonment, as well as for the humiliation he had suffered by being arrested in front of everyone.
The police admitted they were excited when Vijai was pointed out as a suspect, as by that time they still had no leads on the hijacking.
They said there was a suspicion the police colluded with hijackers because bogus officers in SAPS uniforms or real officers were seen at the scenes.
The police said they believed they had their man and were happy.
They felt there was no need to investigate the matter further.
But acting Judge PD Phahlane said they had jumped the gun without investigating the matter.
He said it was clear the arrest and detention had been unlawful and Vijai was entitled to the damages.