Somerset Hospital Western Cape Jamie Pyatt
Cops arrested for arresting innocent man after their suspect escaped at Somerset Hospital. Photo supplied - Jamie Pyatt

Two South African police officers from Maitland, in Cape Town, were arrested on kidnapping charges, after they grabbed an innocent stranger off the street to replace a prisoner who had escaped under their guard!

The shocked, innocent man found himself handcuffed and in a police car, accused of housebreaking and theft, having been switched for the criminal. Despite protesting his innocence the Cape Town cops threw the man into the cells at Maitland police station.

The homeless man’s pleas that he had done nothing wrong fell on deaf ears, and he spent the night behind bars until a detective arrived in the morning and realised, when checking the case file and listening to the innocent man’s story, that the officers had “switched suspects” after their man escaped.

The incident took place on 29 May, and both SAPS police officers were arrested and charged with kidnap, defeating the ends of justice and fraud on Friday (18 July). They appeared in court on Monday.


Magistrates heard that Warrant Officer Ricardo Snyman and Sergeant Sibuyiselo Bentso were caught out as the arrested man looking nothing like the suspect.

A source close to the case said: “The suspect had been arrested for breaking into a house and theft but the officers realised he needed medical attention. They took him to the Somerset Hospital in Sea Point for treatment.” Whilst there, a younger officer was left to guard the suspect, but the suspect managed to escape. The officers drove around the area in search of the suspect, but could not locate him.

“So the two senior officers decided that as the police station knew they had a suspect that they had to arrive with one, so they arrested a random guy,” said the source.

“They thought they would be in big trouble for letting the right man escape.”

Police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk said: “The officers, after losing their suspect, allegedly found another man on the street who they detained in his place. They did not inform anyone of what had happened.

“It was only the next day when the suspect was processed (that) the detective realised the person did not fit the description of the person who was originally arrested,” he said.

The matter was referred to the Anti-Corruption Unit and after an investigation the Director of Public Prosecutions decided to prosecute and the pair were arrested.

The Western Cape provincial government Member of the Executive Council for Community Safety Albert Fritz said: “The allegations in the case are quite disturbing. I cannot believe that members of our South African Police Service (SAPS) would just arrest an innocent person because the actual suspect in the case managed to get away.”

The two suspended police officers appeared at Cape Town Magistrates Court and were given bail of R2,000 each and the case was adjourned until October 27.

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