Court: Former cop blames intruder for wife’s death

2008-06-04 00:00

Former Plessislaer police inspector Sipho Dennis Shabalala (40), on trial for the murder of his common law wife, Sindi Mary Cele (42), told the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday a stranger shot her and then shot him, causing him to lose consciousness on November 29, 2005.

Under cross-examination by state advocate Sandra Senekal, Shabalala was unable to explain why state witnesses who identified him as the gunman — and one of whom testified that he saw Shabalala shoot himself — would conspire to give false evidence against him.

Shabalala was also asked by Judge Isaac Madondo (sitting with two assessors) why he did not tell the court at the start of the trial that he alleged that Cele was shot by an unknown man.

Instead, the court was told that his defence was that he has an “incomplete recollection” of that day’s events, and recalled waking up in hospital.

Shabalala is confined to a wheelchair, as a result of the injuries he sustained when he allegedly shot himself in the forehead after he apparently shot Cele multiple times at their Imbali home.

Cele’s sister, Dudu, who wept during her testimony, said Cele’s relationship with Shabalala was “rocky”.

She said when Shabalala and her sister fought, Sindi would return to their parental home in Dambuza.

She claimed that on this occasion Sindi had in fact left Shabalala and was staying with her at Dambuza. She said her sister told her that she and Shabalala had argued after she called him and another woman answered. When she confronted him, she alleged he told her to leave.

Dudu Cele testified that at 3 am on the morning Cele died, Shabalala arrived at their home in Dambuza and demanded to see Sindi.

She said they talked outside and she then saw Shabalala “pulling” her sister and trying to force her to go with him. Dudu intervened and told him to leave her alone.

She alleged that Shabalala had on occasions threatened to kill Sindi, and she saw on this occasion that he was armed.

Sindi said later that she believed the fact that he wanted her to go with him at that time of the night, meant that he “must want to kill her”, said Dudu.

Shabalala admitted that Sindi left him about four days before the shooting and was staying at Dambuza.

On that day, he said he saw her on her arrival at the family tuck shop at Imbali. He said he suddenly saw an unknown man come through the gate and walk towards the bedroom. He told Sindi, who then went there.

“My firearm was also there in that room,” said Shabalala.

He said he heard the “bang, bang” of gunshots and when he got to the room where his wife’s body was later found, he too was shot on the left side of his head and lost consciousness.

The case continues.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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