‘Closure’ for families of bridge victims

2014-03-01 00:00

A ONCE high-flying Durban lawyer was sentenced to an effective six years in jail for killing three people in an alcohol- and drug-fuelled accident by the Durban Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Now a disbarred lawyer, Koobashan Naicker was found guilty of culpable homicide by the court nearly three years after he killed Gillian Bell, her eight-year-old son Connor, and dance teacher Carmen Hunter on Durban’s Athlone Bridge in March 2011 in a car accident.

Magistrate Blessing Msani sentenced him to eight years, two of which are suspended for five years.

Naicker, who was facing nine counts, including reckless and negligent driving and drunk driving, will serve the sentences concurrently.

In sentencing, Msani said he could understand the pain and the trauma of the families and that the accused should face a strong punishment; however, he felt the accident was a single action and that culpable homicide should be treated as one incident and not three.

Bell’s mother Jenny Griffiths, speaking outside the court, said the sentencing would bring closure to the family.

“Finally, we can tell the grandchildren there is closure and that this man is in jail for his crime. It is a relief. It is finished, but there is nothing to celebrate. But what we have learnt is that there is justice, there are consequences and that drunk driving can affect any family,” she said.

Audrey Bell, mother of Jason Bell who was married to Gillian, called Msani’s verdict “firm and fair”.

“There were good closing arguments from both the state and the defence. We were not sure which way it would go until the magistrate gave the sentence,” said Bell.

But Naicker, according to the victim’s families and friends, showed “no remorse”.

Sharlene Versveld, a family friend of the Bells, said when Naicker was sentenced he simply walked down the stairs towards the holding cells.

“We didn’t see his face. He was obviously nervous as he was wringing his hands throughout the entire judgment.

“There is little to celebrate as while we found closure his family is going through so much now and they must deal with him going to prison,” said Versveld.

Naicker only pleaded guilty in October last year to eight charges, including three of culpable homicide and one of reckless driving. March 24 will mark three years since the accident.

On Thursday in mitigation of sentence Naicker’s wife Patty Shannon-Naicker painted a picture of a man who was “very spiritual” and was “obviously remorseful” about the accident. She called him a “wonderful father” to her two children and that there was a “special bond” between herself and her husband. Shannon-Naicker was present at the court yesterday.

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