Court bomb threat mayhem

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

Pandemonium broke out yesterday in the Bethlehem magistrates' court in the Free State after a policeman rushed in to report a bomb threat.

This happened at the trial of a man accused of raping and killing his family's domestic worker appeared.

Gerhardus Jan Potgieter, 22, pictured right, had just appeared before magistrate Bilall Mitha when Superintendent Ntsaoane Qhobosheane interrupted proceedings to report a bomb threat.

Potgieter is charged with the alleged rape and murder of Sibongile Mgeda, 24, of Bohlokong township, outside Bethlehem last month.

The head of the detective branch, Qhobosheane, told the court that court officials hadreceived a call warning them that there was a bomb in the court building.

Members of the public who had packed the court rushed for the exits, almost crushing one another.

Court officials had to control a panicking public fleeing to the exits.

Potgieter and the other prisoners, scheduled to appear, had to be taken back to the holding cells.

The entire court building was evacuated and the SAPS dog unit as well as the bomb squad were called in.

Members of the emergency services were also on standby.

After a four-hour search no bomb was found and the building and surrounding areas were declared safe.

When the proceedings resumed later only a limited number of people were allowed into the court.

There was still more mayhem in court when the state prosecutor, Roy Naude, advised the court that Potgieter be taken to Oranje Mental Institution for observation to establish if he was fit to stand trial.

Lawyer for the defence, Clem Harrington, agreed and said he did not intend to apply for bail.

Mgeda was last seen alive on the morning of her disappearance on February 23 when she went to work.

A friend, with whom Mgeda always exchanged SMSes, was surprised when she did not get a response from Mgeda to one of these messages.

She asked people if they knew where Mgeda was but no one could shed light on the mystery.

The court case has been postponed to May 8.