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Double probe into death of rehab boy

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Double probe into death of rehab boy

by Tanya Petersen and Esther Lewis
24 Oct 2007
Peoples Post
Peoples Post

The death of a Manenberg teenager booked into a controversial rehabilitation centre has spurred two investigations: one of murder and another ordered by the MEC of Social Development.

Siraaj Charles (19), booked in at a Grassy Park "rehabilitation centre", died on 7 October after complaining about a "prickly" feeling in his head.

His parents sent him to the Circle of Friends rehab centre a week before his death to deal with his tik addiction.

He apparently ran away on Friday, 5 October, fleeing to his Manenberg home. His parents contacted the centre, and he was immediately collected from his home and taken back to Grassy Park.

This would be the last time his parents saw him alive.

It was alleged by Armien Williams, house father of the rehab centre in Klip Road where he was booked in, that Charles complained that he was not feeling well.

At around 01:45 on Sunday morning he was rushed to Victoria Hospital, but died before he reached its doors.

Several sources have claimed the boy was severely assaulted, which apparently caused his death.

Initially, police had opened an inquest docket. Yassien Charles, the boy's father, did not lay any assault charges.

But now, Siraaj's death might be considered murder. Faiza Charles, Siraaj's mother, doesn't have much to say about the circumstances surrounding her son's death. "He's in a better place now and we all just want him to rest in peace," she says.

As for the fact that police are now investigating a case of murder, she says, "If they feel that is what they need to do, then they must carry on."

According to the Grassy Park police a murder docket was opened after it was revealed by the doctor who performed the autopsy that the death was not due to natural causes.

"Because the boy was Muslim and the autopsy was done immediately - because he had to be buried on the same day of his death - the doctor did not feel comfortable with issuing a death certificate stating that the boy had died of natural causes," explains Senior Superintendent Johan Marais of the Grassy Park Police Station.

It was also said that the boy had bruises on his body, but it could not be determined when the bruises were sustained. Inspector Stephen Knapp, spokesperson of the Grassy Park Police Station, says there is an ongoing murder investigation. "No suspects have been identified, but the police are conducting interviews to find out more information."

The Department of Social Development will be investigating the Circle of Friends.

An official within the Substance Abuse Services department says MEC Kholeka Mqulwana has ordered an investigation into the unregistered rehabilitation centre.

"A task team has been set up to investigate the allegations. We should have their findings within a few days," says the official.

"If we find that the allegations are true, one of the options could be to shut them down," she says.

The ministry would have the final say on the matter. A follow-up investigation would also have to take place to establish why they are not registered and why they do not meet the minimum norms and standards.

On the other hand, if the investigation shows that they are above board, they may step in to help them get registered.

Once they are registered, the department will be able to regulate and keep tabs on the running of the centre.

Anyone with information regarding the death can phone Calvin Mokwa, who is investigating the case, at the Grassy Park Police Station on 0832305347.

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