Gardee murder accused moved to maximum-security prison after cellphone found in cell
One of the accused in the Hillary Gardee rape and murder case has been moved to a maximum-security prison after prison officials allegedly found a cellphone in his possession this week.
Police are now investigating a criminal case against the accused, Philemon Lukhele, for allegedly smuggling contraband into his prison cell at the Nelspruit Correctional Centre.
According to department of correctional services spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo, Lukhele was found in possession of the phone on Tuesday.
“Mobile phones are classified as a contraband inside correctional facilities, thus making them unauthorised items. An investigation is currently under way as it is critical to ascertain the circumstances under which this mobile phone was smuggled in and the people involved,” he said.
Lukhele was transferred to a maximum section of the Barberton Correctional Centre.
“For the country to have safe and secure correctional centres, we expect nothing but strict adherence to safety standards from all those who interface with the department of correctional services,” said Nxumalo.
“Hence, visitors, inmates, officials and private citizens caught contravening our regulations shall be dealt with through the criminal justice system.
“DCS’ resolve is clear, those involved in the smuggling of contraband shall never be spared any mercy.”
Lukhele’s legal team confirmed he had been found with a cellphone. The team said the phone was a general prison phone used by inmates.
“The phone was found during a general raid of the prison and not specifically targeted at Lukhele,” said his lawyers.
News of the transfer comes in the same week that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate confirmed to TimesLIVE Investigations they were investigating claims by Lukhele and his co-accused Albert Gama and Sipho Mkhatshwa that police investigating Gardee’s murder had tortured them to extract confessions while pushing them to make statements about EFF deputy president Floyd Shivambu’s alleged role in the murder.
“They asked me about my involvement in the murder and that the murder was planned with Floyd Shivambu. They said I organised the people to kill her in my presence. They asked again about the involvement of Floyd Shivambu in the murder. I denied all of this,” Lukhele was quoted as saying in his statement to Ipid.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brig Selvy Mohlala denied allegations of torture by the police saying, “there was no torture by the police to the suspects. The investigation is still ongoing and the case is currently on the court roll, so unfortunately we will not be able to comment on the merits and processes of the investigation.”
The 28-year-old Gardee, the daughter of former EFF secretary-general Godrich Gardee, was kidnapped, raped, and murdered between April 29 and 30.
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