Durban - A steamy tryst outside a Durban nightclub took a dramatic turn for a teenage couple who were held for hours by police officers bent on soliciting a bribe.
In the wake of their ordeal, they have commissioned private investigator Brad Nathanson to work with police in bringing the errant officers to book.
The teens, who had only met that evening, were topless and doing some serious petting when they were caught by two police officers patrolling the parking lot of popular nightspot Tiger Tiger in the early hours of Saturday morning last week.
After taking to the parking lot to express their newfound lust, the two were collared by officers who threatened them with arrest and a permanent criminal record if they were not paid off.
The teenage girl, who has since returned to Stellenbosch, where she studies, told of how after drinking too much, she had lost her inhibitions after meeting a guy in the club.
The girl added that as things got heated in the car, both had stripped to their waists and were kissing when police officers knocked on the window.
“A man dressed in police uniform told us to get out of the car and that we were under arrest for public indecency. I got out of the car in shock and started to insist that he let me stay at the club.
“I didn’t have my cellphone with me and I needed to tell my friends inside what was happening, as they wouldn’t know where I was.
“The policeman refused, got increasingly aggressive with me, handcuffed one wrist and began to drag me to the police van,” she said.
“The situation became more questionable as one of the policeman forced us back into the car and said he was taking us to the police station to be charged.
“I wondered why we weren’t being taken in the police van and why wouldn’t they let me tell my friends I was being taken away?
“At the time I feared getting a criminal record, so I was just relieved not to be in the back of the police van.”
She said the officers forced them to sit in the car in the parking lot of Durban Central Police station while they negotiated an R8 000 “bail fee”.
The teen said that when she tried to protest, she was sworn at by police. Her companion phoned relatives in an attempt to come up with the money.
“While he called various people to help us with money, the policeman who was in the car with me started to explain that we would be put in prison until Tuesday and then we would have to go to court, hire lawyers and pay various fees.
“He said this would ultimately cost R8 000. He told us if we could get the R8 000 now, we could pay our ‘bail fees’ and leave,” she said.
A police officer in plain clothes tried to pull her out of the car.
“I refused to go with the man because he was not wearing a uniform and I did not trust him. I was sure he would rape me,” she said.
The couple were then accompanied by a policeman to draw money from an ATM. When the boy reached his withdrawal limit of R1 200, the couple were rebuked by the officers who eventually accepted the reduced “bail fee”.
The two were then placed in the police patrol van and taken to Berea Police Station, where they left the money concealed in a spare tyre in the back.
“I didn’t know where we were going. I thought I was being taken to be raped or killed, and I was hoping for the latter. Eventually they told us to leave. The mistakes I made led to the worst night of my life. I know I was very lucky,” she said.
Nathanson said that he had been approached by a Pietermaritzburg family.
“I feel this is an important issue. I am going to approach police at provincial level and ask for their assistance in identifying the two police officers,” he said.
A former police officer, Nathanson said that soliciting a bribe from teenagers in a compromising position was unacceptable.
“I am appalled. If this did take place, and I have no reason to believe that it didn’t, it is disgusting that criminals are posing as police officers in uniform,” he said.
“I will view CCTV footage from the surrounding buildings to try to identify the police vehicle and speak to people in the area, because they might be officers who go there regularly.
“It might be worthwhile for these officers to come forward to their commanding officers, for their own benefit.
“I am not going out there to catch policemen. In my capacity as a private investigator, I will work with police and hand it over to them to deal with the officers,” Nathanson said.
Police spokesman Jay Naicker warned that people should not pay bribes and that they should know their rights.
He said for a minor offence such as public indecency, the pair would have been charged by police and then released.
“People are entitled to contact their next of kin in that situation. If they continue to feel threatened, they should ask to speak to a senior officer or the station commander,” said Naicker.