Police sued for infant’s death

11 May 2021 | Justice

JANA-MARI SMITH

WINDHOEKThe family whose one-month-old son died in the back of a police van last month as a result of alleged reckless and negligent driving are suing the police.

Human rights lawyer Norman Tjombe confirmed on Sunday that he has taken on the case and the family will sue for an as yet undetermined amount for general damages of pain, suffering and shock of the death of the minor child, and estimated funeral expenses.

He added that separate to the civil case, the family with his help will demand that the police institute disciplinary action against the relevant police officers, and that the police officers in question be criminally charged.

Tjombe added that the baby, born on Independence Day this year, is not yet buried and the family will insist that a proper autopsy be conducted.

The parents, Lucia Cloete and Stephanus Eiseb, reported the case to the police shortly after their one-month-old infant died.

Last week police stated that an investigation into culpable homicide had been launched.

On Sunday, police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Kauna Shikwambi confirmed the culpable homicide case registered by the family was being investigated by the internal police sub-division in the Omaheke Region. She added that an autopsy would be conducted to determine the cause of death.

The police officer who allegedly drove the van while the family was in the back, has not yet been officially identified.

The baby, Gabriel Cloete, was born on 21 March 2021 and died exactly one month later, on 21 April.

The family said they visited the Epako police station on 21 April to file a report of theft, and asked that the police accompany them to help them retrieve the stolen blanket.

The baby’s grandfather, in a video recording, claimed that the couple had to wait hours at the police station to report the theft. They had come with their one-year-old toddler and young infant son.

When they were finally assisted, they claim the officer who drove the van was rude and appeared intoxicated.

The grandfather said he was told by his son that the police officer’s driving was wild and reckless. The family, bundled in the back, were tossed around. At one point, the baby fell and bashed his head. They say he died immediately.

They say that the police officer refused to drop them off at home and they were forced to carry their deceased baby’s body to his house.

The name of the police officer has not been revealed yet.

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