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S.Africa’s dragging victim ‘was in fatal crash before death’

A Mozambican taxi driver who was dragged behind a police van and died in custody was in a car accident that killed five school children just days before his death, a South African court heard Monday.

Twenty-seven-year-old Mido Macia faced charges of culpable homicide over the incident, a lawyer defending the nine policemen charged with his murder said at a bail hearing.

The defence appeared to argue that some of Macia’s injuries uncovered by an autopsy may been a result of the accident, after prosecutors earlier said Macia was brutally abused before and after his arrest late last month.

No more details about the car accident were given.

Bystanders on February 26 filmed Macia being manhandled, handcuffed to the back of the van and dragged hundreds of metres through the streets of Daveyton, a town east of Johannesburg.

Just over two hours later he was found dead in his cell, with extensive injuries, including cuts and bleeding on the brain, in a case that shocked South Africa and the world.

At Monday’s bail hearing, the court heard about the extent of his injuries.

“The deceased died of internal injuries that demonstrate the degree of violence inflicted,” said prosecutor December Mthimunye, reading from an internal police investigator’s affidavit.

Investigators ordered a second autopsy after the diplomatic embarrassment over the incident, which was initially blamed on a jail fight.

Internal police investigator Mandla Mahlangu later saw Macia “bleeding in his cell.”

He had blood “even in his heart”, Mthimunye said, quoting the postmortem report. “And this happened in the police station.”

Macia was already injured when he arrived at the station, contrary to police claims, he said.

“He was crying and bleeding and he already had some open head wounds,” he said, adding: “When he was booked into his cell he was not wearing any trousers.”

The accused officers “flouted operational procedures” by not even calling an ambulance, Mthimunye added.

On Friday, the nine policemen said at a hearing at Benoni magistrate’s court they were not guilty.

They said Macia, a minibus taxi driver, had assaulted a policeman while resisting arrest after being confronted for parking his taxi on the wrong side of the road.

The driver of the police van claimed he drove away to escape the angry crowd that had gathered, and did not know Macia was being dragged behind.

None of the accused explained how the Mozambican ended up cuffed to the van or dead in his cell.

Footage of the incident went viral and cast a spotlight yet again on the conduct of South Africa’s much maligned police force.

The Macia family plans to sue the police ministry for damages, their lawyers said Sunday.

Around 2,000 people attended Macia’s funeral in his hometown Matola in southern Mozambique on Saturday.