Poisoning in Wetton

Image via Adobe Stock

‘Mass poisoning’: Minstrel owner’s bar in Wetton under suspicion

A minstrel owner’s bar has come under the spotlight in the investigation of a ‘mass poisoning’ incident in Wetton.

Poisoning in Wetton

Image via Adobe Stock

Six people collapsed on a road in Wetton, Cape Town from suspected poisoning on Monday 13 January.  

Witnesses say they were allegedly given food and an unidentified drink at The Penn — a bar owned by minstrel boss Richard “Pot” Stemmet. 

According to TimesLive, one of the victims said he and five others who ended up in hospital, were given a clear, sour-tasting liquid to drink with food from a soup kitchen, alleged to be part of The Penn. 

Stemmet has allegedly been arrested five times on charges, including assault, dealing in drugs, motor vehicle theft and possession of an unlicensed firearm, with cases dating back to 1994. All the cases against him were withdrawn.

Clear sour liquid intended for poisoning?

Mondi Dunga, a homeless man living on the streets in the area, said he felt drunk after having a single tot of liquid given to him with some free food.

Dunga said everyone who drank the liquid, which he describes as wine “with a sour taste”, soon afterwards collapsed and experienced convulsions.

Dunga woke up in a hospital after doctors had pumped his stomach.

“It was very strong. I think they put something in there,” he said. 

A witness who accompanied Dunga, said that once the food was finished, the same people from the same restaurant came back with an unidentified clear drink. 

Stemmet first denied any association with a “soup kitchen” operating from a part of his building, but later admitted there was food there but he did not know of any liquids. 

High levels of alcohol and toxins found in clear liquid 

Cape Town mayoral committee member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said the blood results showed high levels of alcohol and other toxins. 

“What we’ve been able to obtain from the provincial health department, and in terms of the blood results that have come back … there were high levels of alcohol detected and there were other toxins discovered,” he said.

Badroodien said the liquid could have been a substance such as ethanol or methanol. He said the “other toxins” were being investigated.

He said it was likely not alcohol sold for commercial consumption because the patients would have had to consume a lot in a very strong concentration for their blood alcohol to reach the levels found in the tests.

Six people allegedly poisoned 

ER24 paramedics were alerted to a scene, from where they transported five people in a critical condition and one in a serious condition to a nearby hospital after they collapsed. 

ER24 said the six collapsed after consuming what paramedics described as an “unknown substance,” which led to the suspicion of a mass poisoning incident.

“Six people were transported to the hospital this afternoon — five in a critical condition — after they collapsed on Wetton Road, in Wetton, Western Cape,” said the ER24 statement. 

The patients were treated for their injuries and were provided with several advanced life support interventions before they were transported to nearby hospitals for further care.

“Local authorities were on the scene for further investigations,” added the statement. 

Western Cape SAPS confirmed the incident, but said that a criminal case has not been opened as yet. 

“Kindly be advised that Lansdowne police are aware of an incident earlier today where five male persons and one female were admitted to hospital after consuming the same food. No criminal case has been opened at this stage. However, Lansdowne police will be looking into the matter to determine the circumstances. An enquiry has been registered for this purpose,” said Colonel Andre Traut.