A senior state advocate from South Africa was killed in the courtroom in what authorities described as a "freak accident." 51-year-old Addelaid Ferreira Watt was in Ixopo regional court when a loaded gun fell from a display and discharged a single shot as it hit the floor. Watt was struck in the hip and rushed to the hospital, where she later died. Officials say the gun was being used as evidence in a home robbery case involving five men who have been accused of robbing a couple on their farm in 2014.
The gun was reportedly stolen during the robbery but later was returned to the couple. Police allowed them to hold onto the weapon because they needed it for protection. Before the trial, an officer collected the gun from the couple. The officer did not check to see if the gun was loaded before he brought it to the courtroom.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has launched an investigation into the accidental shooting.
"IPID has been alerted of the unfortunate incident involving the alleged accidental shooting of the state senior public prosecutor in uMzimkhulu [Regional] Court on Monday by a police officer. IPID is investigating the matter, and further updates will be provided when available," IPID spokesperson Sontaga Seisa said.
Elaine Zungu, who is the local director of public prosecutions, offered her condolences to Watt's family.
“It is with great sadness that I inform you of the passing on November 18 of senior state advocate Addelaid Ann Ferreira Watt of the office of the director of public prosecutions, Pietermaritzburg,” she said in a statement. “Her untimely passing is mourned by all. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this difficult time. The family has requested that their privacy be respected.”