The friends and family of a young Alexandra DJ are seeking answers after the man arrested by police for allegedly drinking and driving was found dead inside the police van less than an hour later.
Jabu Fritz, 26, was involved in an accident in Bramley, northern Johannesburg, on Thursday morning while driving his friend’s BMW 5 series. The owner of the other car called the police. Just 45 minutes after Fritz was taken in, police informed his friend and owner of the car he was driving, Sifelane Phiri, that Fritz hanged himself inside the van, using his shoelaces.
Phiri told Sowetan yesterday he had just checked in at a motel in Bramley when police arrived with Fritz.
“He immediately told me that an accident had happened. I asked him [Fritz] if he had another accident in a Dibala [the car’s nickname]. I asked him like that because he has had two other accidents while driving my car,” Phiri said.
Phiri said he then joined Fritz in the police van and headed to the accident scene.
“When we arrived at the scene, I found my car and it was damaged on the right side at the back. The other car was being towed from the scene. Police refused to take a statement from me. The two officers then told me they were taking Jabu in and said to me I would find them at the Alexandra police station.”
Phiri said as the police indicated they were leaving, a vehicle arrived with four people. One of the occupants allegedly got out and began taking pictures of his car.
“When I asked him why he is taking pictures, he slapped me in the face. I punched back,” Phiri said.
He said the fight was broken off after the other car’s owner told the four men, who identified themselves as local security guards, that they were beating up the wrong person.
The four men then drove off. Phiri went back to the motel and police arrived to tell him the sad news.
“They were carrying Jabu’s jersey. They told me that he hanged himself in the van using his shoelaces. I asked to go and see him but they refused, saying they want his next of kin. The cops must tell the truth about what happened. How can a man hang himself inside a police van. Jabu could not have killed himself because he damaged my car. This was his third accident. How could he have killed himself with his shoelaces? That does not make any sense,” said Phiri.
Fritz was identified by his aunt Dorothy Ndlovu the same day.
“How our child died has not settled well with the family. We can’t find closure in such circumstances. I asked the people at the Hillbrow mortuary to allow me to see the body but they refused. They showed me a picture of him on a computer screen.”
Police declined to comment, referring all questions to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate who did not respond to requests for comment by the time of print.