Bail extended for drive-by killer

2010-05-17 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG Judge Achmat Jappie on Friday convicted an Estcourt resident, Mohamed Azeem Yunus (37), of murder and attempted murder charges arising from a drive-by shooting on the N3 highway on May 17, 2007.

The judge agreed to extend his bail pending sentencing on May 21.

Vegetable seller Vinod Ramsarup was killed outright, his passenger, Sarah Sathar, sustained 12 gunshot wounds and her eight-year-old daughter, Abidha, was grazed four times and left covered in Ramsarup’s blood following the shooting.

The attack was linked to a family feud that arose when Sarah and Asgur Sathar’s son, Shoaib, was charged with the murder of Yunus’s sister, Safia Asmal, in September 2005. Judgment in that case is expected on May 24.

Ramsarup, a friend of the Sathar family, had borrowed Asgur Sathar’s bakkie on the day to fetch vegetables from Pietermaritzburg, and offered to drive Sarah Sathar to New Prison to visit her son.

Judge Jappie, sitting with an assessor, rejected Yunus’s version that he saw Sarah Sathar pointing a silver handgun at him as the bakkie drew alongside his car on the N3 highway and that he acted in self-defence when he fired 17 shots towards her — admittedly with the intention of killing her — because he thought his life was in danger from her. Yunus testified he was not aware of the driver of the bakkie nor Sathar’s daughter.

Jappie said the only evidence in the trial that “placed a gun in Sarah Sathar’s hand” was that of Yunus himself.

The judge said instead that there is an overwhelming probability that she was not armed. All the other evidence in the case corroborated her assertion that she did not have a firearm with her, said Jappie.

He also said he gained the impression from her evidence that she was telling the truth, despite defence submissions that she was a lying witness.

The judge rejected Yunus’s claim that he “beat Sarah Sathar to the draw” by shooting her before she could shoot him and said on his version she must have had the opportunity to shoot at him, but instead she did not fire a single shot.

This despite Yunus’s claim that she is a volatile and dangerous person who would not have hesitated to resort to violence.

She testified that as she was going to visit her son in prison, she left her firearm at home because no guns are allowed in prison.

No firearm was found at the scene. Police found her licenced firearm, a black Beretta, in a safe in her home.

There was no proof that her husband removed her handbag and a firearm from the scene of the shooting, and the suggestion that this might be the case was pure speculation, the judge said.

Judge Jappie agreed to extend Yunus’s bail, pending sentence, despite an objection by state advocate Sandesh Sankar, who said he was concerned that since being found guilty Yunus would be a flight risk and that the dangerous emotions are continuing to run high in the family and community.

However, the judge agreed with defence advocate Shane Matthews that Yunus has complied with all his bail conditions and said it is to be hoped the families have “learned their lesson”.

Matthews said the defence wants to consult Yunus as well as his psychologist before making submissions with regard to sentence.

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