Hilton Shaw gets 12 years

2009-06-16 00:00

FORMER Fort Nottingham resident Hilton Shaw (59) sat shaking his head disbelievingly in the dock in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday as Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner found him guilty of murdering his wife, Susan, on June 3, 2007, and sentenced him to 12 years’ imprisonment.

Judge Niles-Duner, sitting with an assessor, later refused to grant Shaw leave to appeal against his conviction, but agreed to extend his R100 000 bail pending a petition by the defence to the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA).

If the SCA grants the petition, Shaw’s appeal will be set down for hearing, but if it is declined he will have to serve his jail term.

Susan Shaw’s family told The Witness they are satisfied that justice had been served and praised Niles-Duner for a “very thorough judgment”.

Even though they have forgiven Shaw, they say, they wish he had told the truth about what happened that fatal day.

“We’ll never know exactly what happened. We just want this all to end now so that Susan’s children can get on with their lives. It’s been a very difficult, stressful time,” said a close relative who did not want to be named.

In her judgment, Niles-Duner rejected the possibility that Susan Shaw committed suicide or was attacked by an intruder at their remote estate on Lake Lyndhurst.

The court found that the suicide version was not supported by the expert testimony of forensic pathologist Reggie Perumal, nor that of ballistics expert Kobus Steyl.

Evidence revealed that Susan Shaw bled to death from a “contact” bullet wound fired through three layers of clothing into the area just above her right armpit.

Perumal said she would have bled to death within 10 to 15 minutes, but would have been conscious for the first five minutes.

The judge said Shaw is a “highly intelligent and sophisticated individual” who had thought about and considered every aspect of the matter and had a “ready answer” for all the questions raised.

Although, his advocate, Shane Matthews, argued his demeanour could not be faulted, the judge said this wasn’t surprising, given his intelligence. It did not mean that Shaw was telling the truth about every­thing.

She said that in the first place it was difficult to understand how Shaw could have jumped to the conclusion that his wife had committed suicide, given her conduct immediately before the shooting.

Shaw himself said that when he left her to retrieve SMS messages, they’d been talking at the bar. “The conversation concluded with her professing her love for him, kissing and hugging him and telling him she was not going anywhere without him.”

Shaw’s explanation that he thought of suicide because he did not see anyone else about was “not normal”.

The judge said Susan Shaw had fresh abrasions on her face, which could not have been self-inflicted and which were visible.

If he had knelt at her side on the verandah where she died and kissed her, as he said, he must have seen these injuries.

The court further rejected as “grossly improbable” Shaw’s version that an intruder had by sheer coincidence made the “arduous” journey to the house, taken advantage of Shaw’s brief absence to take possession of his gun, shot Susan Shaw under the armpit in the bathroom, dropped the firearm and then fled without taking anything.

Simon Madlala and Doris Ndlovu, workers at neighbouring properties, both observed some activity before the gunshot went off, and Shaw’s bakkie was seen leaving thereafter.

The judge found that when Shaw shot his wife in the bathroom his intention could not have been to merely injure her because “if she lived to tell the tale she would testify against him”.

The overwhelming probability was that there had been a struggle between them, which resulted in Shaw shooting his wife, and that when he shot her he had a direct intention to kill her, said Niles-Duner.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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