Three cleared in death of boy at Uitenhage rugby riot

Bevan Joseph in his school uniform Picture: B-Jay Piercey
Bevan Joseph in his school uniform
Picture: B-Jay Piercey

Court overturns conviction for causing wall to collapse on Bevan Joseph, 10

The three men convicted and sentenced for culpable homicide after a wall collapsed on 10-year-old Bevan Joseph at a club rugby match in Uitenhage six years ago are now free men.

In 2013, the Uitenhage Regional Court sentenced Ricardo de Jager, Keith Korkee and Willie Louw to an effective five years in prison after it was found their actions led to a stampede at the Uitenhage Central sports fields during a club rugby match that caused a pavilion wall to collapse onto Bevan.

However, after an appeal by the three, the Grahamstown High Court found yesterday they could not have foreseen that their actions on August 21 2010 would lead to a wall collapsing on the boy, and their conviction and sentence were set aside.

According to the evidence, between 3 000 and 4 000 people filled the pavilion during the match between Gardens and Progress.

Near the end of the match, a fight broke out between the teams on the field, with spectators on the pavilion throwing bottles and stones at each other.

Spectators fled to the exits of the pavilion and one exit became so congested that a brick wall gave way under the pressure.

A number of people fell over the wall as it collapsed, and once the chaos had cleared Bevan’s body was found in the rubble.

Yesterday, Judge Nomathamsanqa Beshe upheld the appeal by the three men and set aside the original judgment.

“In the circumstances of the present case, could a reasonable man have foreseen that the throwing of bottles at spectators would cause them to flee?” Beshe’s judgment said.

“The answer should in all probability be yes. “Could a reasonable person have foreseen that the spectators, would, in search of safety, run towards the exit points of the pavilion? The answer to this question should be a resounding yes.”

“Could a reasonable man in the shoes of the appellants have foreseen that as a result of the pressure from the fleeing throngs the brick wall would give in and fall on top of the deceased, killing him?

“I am unable to find that this eventuality could and should have been foreseen by the appellants or a reasonable man in the shoes of the appellants.”

“There is no way that they could have foreseen that.”

Bevan’s father, former Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) boss and current EPRU executive member Phillip Joseph, expressed his relief after the three men were convicted in connection with his son’s death.

Joseph could, however, not be reached for comment following  yesterday court’s decision.

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