Douglasdale police accused of negligence by woman who was assaulted by her husband

Eight days in hospital but police “didn’t show concern”

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Photo of woman in hospital with bandages
A Douglasdale woman has accused the police of negligence in investigating charges of assault against her husband. Photo supplied

On 14 September, LM* says she woke up in Netcare Olivedale Hospital in Randburg in shock. Photographs show deep maroon bruises on her face, with stitches trailing across her forehead and nose. Medical staples clamped the skin together above her ear and across the nape of her neck, while knife cuts and blood spots painted her hands and throat, her blackened eye swollen shut.

The day before, LM says, she was attacked and stabbed by her husband. She says he punched her in the face and pushed her to the ground. Witnesses saw him chase her out of the house with a knife and drag her across the driveway, beating and stabbing her. Her son’s screaming alerted the neighbours to the attack. One of them pulled the man off her and they watched him drive away.

There were 177,620 reports of crimes against women in 2017 and 2018 according to the South African Police Service annual crime report. But domestic violence is one of the least-reported types of crime. According to a 2018 Statistics South Africa report, 56% of women who reported assaults were satisfied with the police response. But LM is not one of them.

Neighbours drove her to the hospital after the assault and nurses immediately called the Douglasdale police station. But the police did not come. Family members had to travel to the police station and make a fuss before the police agreed to investigate the attack.

“She was very close to death and they acted as though it was just a case of a house burglary or something,” said LM’s cousin. “Their actions didn’t show concern.”

The police told the family they couldn’t visit the crime scene because there was only one working police car. But LM’s uncle counted 13 cars in the police station parking lot.

When finally police officers did arrive at the house, they declined the photographs LM’s cousin had taken of the crime scene, and initially refused to take the assault weapon — the knife — with them for testing, until LM’s family insisted.

A neighbour interviewed by police told the family the police had not written down anything he said.

The couple had been in hostile year-long divorce proceedings after an incident in November 2018 prompted LM to file a protection order against her husband. She says he was notified of the protection order before it was served on him and she believes he has a friend on the Douglasdale police force. She says she went to the police station every day to ensure the protection order was served, but police kept delaying it.

Police did visit LM in hospital on 16 September, but it was to question her about charges her husband had filed against her. They showed her a photograph of him with bandages on his hands. LM, who spent eight days in hospital recovering from her injuries, says she had to insist on them taking her statement.

The assault case against her husband finally got to court on 5 October. He was denied bail and is in prison.

“My children couldn’t sleep for two weeks,” says LM. “They don’t want to see him ever again.”

The husband’s lawyer told GroundUp that his client “denies acting wrongfully and unlawfully. It is in fact our client that was attacked … He was defending himself.”

GroundUp contacted the Provincial Commissioner of Gauteng Lieutenant General E Mawela and was referred to Douglasdale Communications. There a Captain Tshetlhanee referred GroundUp to the Gauteng Provincial Spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters.

Peters said: “Police have noted the allegations and view them as serious.”

“It would be in the best interest of the complainant to contact station management and present their dissatisfaction. An internal investigation should be conducted to establish the veracity of these allegations. The SAPS will apply internal consequence management should our members be found to have committed any wrong during the investigation of the case.”

“I want this story out there,” LM said, “because as a woman, one thing I’ve seen is that we hide things. We don’t talk about things that happen in our private lives. We are not saving each other. So, if this story can save one person, then I’ve done my job.”

*Names have been withheld to protect the identities of those involved in this ongoing case.

TOPICS:  Policing

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