Noupoort - A teenage boy from Moreleta Park in Pretoria died in a "detention camp" at Noupoort's Christian care centre for drug and alcohol addicts, reportedly after being chained by his neck in a disciplinary cell.
The centre, run by clergymen, has accused the police of "unprofessional and preposterous" action after two centre instructors were arrested in connection with the death of Logan Klingenberg, 16, of 6 Gomdoring Street, Moreleta Park. He had been a pupil at the Waterkloof High School.
An upset family member of Klingenberg's on Wednesday evening said "the way he died is sick, since he had endeavoured to become a better person".
Patients reportedly handcuffed
In the detention camp, patients reportedly are handcuffed and left sitting either in the hot sun or in the cold; they have to dig huge holes before receiving food, and are kicked and punched to "break down their rebelliousness".
Centre spokesperson Jeffrey McCarthy said Logan was admitted to the centre on May 5.
"He escaped on Friday night. Five staff members later caught him walking along the road."
McCarthy confirmed that as punishment Logan was sent to Midlandia, the detention centre or training camp where male patients are sent. The centre is located outside the town and patients are required to work and train there.
"It is not a pleasant place, and is similar to the army. He [Logan] refused to work. He was then chained to the bars in his cell preventing him from either sitting down or sleeping," he said.
'Found chained and hanging from the neck'
The police claim that Logan was found chained and hanging from his neck on Tuesday at about 10:00 by staff members.
"It appears they tried to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful."
The police were called by a pastor, but Logan had been unchained by the time they arrived on the scene. He had marks on his neck.
The two instructors, respectively 34 and 30 years of age, were arrested on Tuesday. They are to appear in court soon.
"We are convinced the boy committed suicide, but I cannot swear on the Bible to it. There were no eyewitnesses," McCarthy added.
"We realise that an unnatural death has to be probed. However, to apprehend the instructors on the basis of patients' statements is unprofessional. The police are interfering in the centre's business.
"We have about 250 patients and now chaos has ensued here, since they are all upset."
Police 'opposed to centre's methods'
The instructors involved, who worked on a voluntary basis "for the love of God", only did duty at the detention camp. He added, however, that the police were opposed to the centre's methods and the detention camp was controversial.
The centre was founded about ten years ago by senior pastor Sophos Nissiotis. A total of 35 staff members were employed. Patients were admitted voluntarily or were brought to the centre by family members.
Three of the patients were foreigners.
McCarthy said in terms of the centre's constitution, patients were required to abstain from their addiction and lead a "proper life" otherwise they were sent to Midlandia.
Logan reportedly told a care-centre pastor a day before his death that he was "tired of being an addict and that he wanted to recover," a family member said.
A friend of Logan's parents on Wednesday said the family was devastated as their "only child had been murdered".
"His mother says that they had paid thousands of rands for his rehabilitation and now he was dead".
Logan reportedly had been addicted to heroin, and had started taking drugs like dagga and ecstasy about a year ago.
"Taking drugs started out as an image thing," the family member said.
Meanwhile four patients have absconded from the centre, which regards itself as the best rehabilitation unit in the southern hemisphere.
Noupoort is halfway between Colesberg and Middelburg on the main route between Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
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