Addelaid Ferreira-Watt was prosecuting a robbery case in which a group of men allegedly stole a shotgun from a couple in Ixopo, about 135 km outside of Durban in eastern South Africa, according to newspaper The Witness.
The gun was brought to Umzimkhulu Regional Court to be entered as evidence Monday when it apparently went off unintentionally and hit Ferreira-Watt in the hip, the newspaper reported.
Ferreira-Watt was taken to a hospital but did not survive, authorities said. The incident and officer responsible for handling the weapon and ensuring it was not loaded were being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, spokesperson Sontaga Seisa told the Sunday Times.
According to The Witness, five men were being prosecuted for a 2014 robbery during which they allegedly attacked Cheryl Biggs and her husband, Dave, on their Ixopo farm.
The shotgun was allegedly stolen in the incident but returned to the couple for their protection, the newspaper reported. The trial had been delayed but was slated to start last week, prompting the gun to be processed as evidence, according to The Witness.
Biggs told the newspaper that she told police she was unsure whether the gun was loaded when she handed it over to them.
"I am extremely distraught," Biggs told The Witness.
Friends, family and colleagues remembered Ferreira-Watt as a sharp legal advocate and compassionate friend.
"I lost a sister with a bubbly personality," fellow lawyer Simphiwe Mlotshwa told The Witness.
Friend Shaista Gaffoor told the newspaper Ferreira-Watt was "like a mother" to her. "We will miss her a lot. She had beauty and brains."