Locals live in terror after 21 prisoners escape

Elisha Molefe

Elisha Molefe

Residents of Lehurutshe and Dinokana, near Zeerust, say they are living in fear after the escape of 21 awaiting-trial prisoners from the local police station on New Year's Eve.

Sowetan's offices in North West were inundated with calls from people who claimed that the escaped prisoners were hardened criminals who might have found refuge in their midst.

The prisoners are said to have overpowered a lone guard making a routine check of the police station's holding cells.

The escapees reportedly stabbed the prison warder but police would not give details of the escape.

A Lehurutshe police spokesman, Inspector Kebawetse Rantsome, said the guard was being questioned and if found to have been negligent would be charged.

Local residents said such escapes were to be expected because, they claimed, the police station was often manned by only three officers.

"Three people cannot guard 59 hardened criminals. While one is doing administrative work the other two must attend to complaints from the public.

"Sometimes two officers go to attend to matters in the village while only one remains behind," said Puleng Seokame, from Dinokana.

Lehurutshe police spokesman Captain Elsabe Augoustide refused to comment, saying the "matter is under investigation. Anything I say now might hinder the investigation."

According to the police, the escapees were arrested for serious crimes in the province.