Ferreira-Watt, 51, was transferred to the hospital but did not survive.
Now, the IPID is investigating the case as a culpable homicide, spokesman Sontaga Seisa said.
“We are basically going to be focusing on whether the policeman’s finger was on the trigger, or whether the gun went off accidentally somehow,” Seisa said.
Ferreira-Watt’s colleagues and loved ones were flabbergasted as to how a loaded gun was possibly allowed to be brought into the court as evidence.
Brigadier Jay Naicker, a spokesman for the South African Police Service in KwaZulu-Natal province, told local news radio station 702 that the suspects stole the shotgun from a couple during a 2014 farmhouse robbery in the town of Ixopo, in the KwaZulu-Natal province. When police caught the five suspects, Naicker said a judge allowed police to return the shotgun to the couple because they said they needed it for protection.
The couple, Cheryl and Dave Biggs, said police officers came by to pick up the gun for the trial on Monday, South African newspaper the Witness reported.
When Cheryl Biggs found out the gun went off during court, she was “extremely distraught,” she told the newspaper. Police had even asked her if the gun was loaded or not — but she told them she didn’t know for sure.
Now, it’s unclear why police didn’t find out.
“Whatever the circumstances,” Johan Booysen, former head of KwaZulu-Natal police’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, wrote on Twitter, “Some-one will have to account for the death of [Advocate] Adelaide Ferreira-Watt in Umzimkhulu court yesterday.”
Ferreira-Watt had been a prosecutor for 27 years, the National Prosecuting Authority said in a statement. Just two weeks before she died, her sister, Karin Stander, told You magazine she was considering retiring after years of insisting it wasn’t time.
Stander said when the family learned where Ferreira-Watt had been shot they thought she would be able to pull through. Some reports said the shotgun blast severed an artery.
“It’s such a tremendous shock,” Stander told the magazine. “You know, she could’ve retired but she kept saying she’s not ready to hang up her robes.”