Police are liable for dad's suffering
The High Court in Pretoria has granted an order for the Police Minister to compensate a Pretoria father for his anguish after failing to inform him of the discovery of his son’s body for almost five years after he was reported missing.
In terms of a settlement, the Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa accepted liability for the damages suffered by 52-year-old Roelof van der Merwe of Faerie Glen.
A civil trial would commence at a later stage to determine the amount of damages Van der Merwe would receive from the police.
Van der Merwe was claiming R800,000 for his mental anguish, emotional trauma and the costs of trying to find his son.
In court papers, he said he went to report missing his 23-year-old son Andries, two days after he disappeared from his last known address in Alberton North on April 27, 2005.
He was told it was too early to report his son as missing, but when his son still did not turn up, he once again reported him missing and was given a reference number.
He used the reference number when he made his enquiries with the police, but was each time told no information was available.
Van der Merwe was only informed in December 2009 that his son’s body had been found in Sunnyside on April 29, 2005, two days after he went missing, and that an investigation had been opened into his death.
The Sunnyside police also informed him the reference number for the missing persons’ report he had been using did not exist and had no bearing on the report he had lodged.
Van der Merwe said the uncertainty linked to his son’s disappearance had caused him substantial pain, suffering and emotional trauma and resulted in him having to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment for depression and post-traumatic stress.
He claimed the police had been negligent by making no effort to find out if his son had been reported missing after his body was found.
He claimed damages for his past and future psychiatric treatment and psychological counselling.
He was also suing the state for the money he spent on travel, telephone calls and private investigators in an attempt to find his son.
The police minister was also ordered to pay Van der Merwe’s legal costs.