Don’t Shoot!

Attempted sexual assault, planted drugs, drunken police, bribes and arms drawn, this is the night we never wanted to talk about. This is night that I thought I might be shot, fleeing a Mozambique police station as things escalated out of control.

It’s paradise on a Wednesday night in a bar with people from all over the world, chilling under the stars on a desolate beach. That’s how the night started in Tofo, Mozambique and none of us could have ever imagined the events that would unfold.

Warning: This story is pretty heavy. This is my first hand account.

At 2.30am a friend of mine, a young Scottish lass Sarah ventured down to Tofo Beach for a cigarette. A few minutes later screams were heard from the beach where guys in the bar saw a man wrestling with her. Luckily, with a left jab, she fended off her attacker in the darkness and made it back to the bar. To give you a better idea of the situation, he was a local police officer and he was demanding sex. He threatened to kill her if she refused, after attempts to hold her down failed. Guests in a frenzy grabbed me to help out and bridge the language barrier.

In a weird sequence of events after making it back to Fatima’s lodge, both Sarah and the American crew who’d seen the incident were confronted by the officer who pleaded his innocence. Another plain clothes officer tried to calm the situation, and by calm I mean tell us there was no problem and that there was nothing to worry about. During the screams, tears and physical aggression 30mins elapsed in which time an onlooker had ventured to the local police station to raise alarm – summoning Tofo’s most senior sergent.

An amateur move and let’s just say that I was less than impressed after negative experiences with corrupt authorities in Africa. Nevertheless, we were assured that the officer was legit, the real deal and was here to help.

Whilst Mitch stayed back to restrain an understandably irate Scotsman willing to dish out some of his own justice, which was a miracle in itself – It was agreed that we would go to the police station in Tofo to record a statement.

These were the events as they unfolded and they defied belief.

Present were the British female assaulted, a German girl, an American family, a Mozambique translator, 3 local police and myself. I made it clear that we would each be contacting our national embassies as a matter of priority following the incident. Over and over with my poker face.

Upon entry to the station Sarah immediately raised concerns – the accused officer had returned to the station and was present, now sporting more official attire. Imagine that, trying to explain one of the most horrific events ever in your life whilst having the person who attempted to sexually assault you right there in your face berating you. In an heroic effort, still visibly shaken, she pointed him out and solidered on – I’ll never know how she did it.

I requested the names of each officer in the room – naturally no officer had any identification or name tags. This was refused. I attempted to record the interview via my telephone and transcribe the interview. Needless to say both requests were also refused. My phone can’t record sound anyway but it was all about the bluff.

After recording a few lines of the victims statement on what appeared to be a loose piece of scrap paper the witnesses were asked for statements. All clearly identified the attacker as the officer. The Sergeant didn’t record any of these statements and it was almost unbearable to watch as he tried to hide a smirk amongst the victims tears. Let’s face it, his notes may as well have been written in crayon by a 5 year old child – that’s about the extent of detail he recorded.

Naturally after cutting off the witnesses, the accused officer insisted on making his own statement. Permission granted, with of course, other officers chipping in here and there with extra information. In a statement which was incredibly difficult to sit through, he tried to explain it was all a misunderstanding and that he was looking for 2 males who were allegedly smoking marijuana with the female on the beach. A claim denied by all of the witnesses.

After a short absence the officer returned with what looked to be an old ‘joint’ which he pulled from his pocket and placed it on the table. He then with increasing volume stated it was Sarah’s. This was denied and we stated we where happy to have a DNA test and await the results. Declined. Let the framing begin.

After further debate and as the accused officer who was heavily intoxicated became increasingly paniced, we sought to have the matter resolved by returning the following day. At this point the officers took the situation out of the senior officers hands – a scuffle broke out as they attempted to arrest Sarah for drug possession. In what resembled a tug-o-war we things got physical as we intervened when another witness was assaulted and the officers attempted to drag Sarah into a small back room.

Staring corruption in the face – the shit had hit the fan. If things couldn’t deteriorate any further, after running into out back the accused officer returned armed with an AK-47.

Needless to say, at this point, both the young females were beyond hysterical and I could not begin to describe the look of total fear now instilled in them as tensions reached boiling point.

As the situation escalated rapidly out of control, remaining calm, I attempted to reason with the armed officer outside. While the senior officer defended his own inside, the now totally enraged officer in the shadows of the station was jamming his firearm inches from my face, screaming Portuguese with veins popping from his protruding eyes. In desperation the family took the sergeant aside to ‘work things out’, They were forced to pay an excessive fee.

Our lives were realistically at risk, 2 of the 3 officers had also been drinking at Fatima’s lodge and were heavily intoxicated, mumbling and stumbling on edge, paniced and armed. A combination that is less than ideal.

After the screaming turned into a scuffle with the officers and the translator, we were able to push the girls out into the darkness of the street to make an escape back to the lodge. We hid the two females in the corner of an empty dormitory. You could have heard a pin drop.

As last to leave standing under only street light – I felt for the first time in my life that I might be gunned down.

Amongst the screams between the police the translator, we made our getaway as the search continued into the early hours of the morning. They never found us. The family fled town on a bus as we sat it out until the morning.

The British Embassy was there the next day and at last check in the matter was being investigated and raised by the German, American and Australian embassies.

As for Sarah, she’s home in Scotland and she is my hero.

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