Dockets go up in smoke
Dockets containing vital criminal evidence relating to serious offences such as rape, murder and armed robbery among others were destroyed after an office in one of Mpumalanga's periodical courts was torched.
Police at the Masoyi police station near Hazyview told Sowetan that they only discovered that the office had been torched on Monday night when they arrived for work at about 6am.
The office is situated in a building behind the police station. It is right at the end of the building, which might explain why the night staff did not noticed the fire.
"The fire had already been extinguished when we arrived in the morning but it was impossible to get inside because it was as hot as the inside of an oven.
"When we gained access to the office we discovered that sensitive documents and information relating to murder, rape and armed robbery had been destroyed," said Masoyi police spokesman Jiyela Sibiya.
Tables, chairs, filing cabinets, record books and documents were either burnt to smithereens or partially destroyed.
Handcuffs and staples lay among the ashes.
"We believe that whoever was responsible for the fire may have intended destroying the evidence in the belief that their cases would never make it to court.
"But they are mistaken because duplicate dockets will be opened," Sibiya said.
Most of the information in the dockets had already been captured on the national computer database.
Sibiya confirmed that there had been no security guard at the court because it was situated behind the police station.
The burnt office was mostly used by detectives, who are devastated because the recovery will be a lengthy process.
Police have opened a case of arson and have asked anyone with information that could be of help to call Inspector Sibiya on 082-303-9831.