House heist couple jailed for four years

2011-12-30 00:00

CONVICTED fraudsters Dinesh Lutchman and his wife, Akashnee Singh, have been handed jail sentences for trying to deprive Rowena Padayachee of her home in Burger Street.

However, Padayachee still cannot lay claim to her property unless the couple relinquish or fail in their application for leave to appeal against a high court order evicting them.

Lutchman and Singh were sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment each, half of which was suspended by regional court magistrate Chris van Vuuren.

They were ordered to begin serving their sentences immediately after Van Vuuren refused to grant them bail pending their application for leave to appeal their conviction and sentences.

The marathon trial was finalised yesterday after the couple tried again, in vain, to delay the proceedings by trying to interdict the court from passing sentence.

The application for an urgent interdict that they lodged in the high court on Wednesday was struck off the roll because Lutchman was not present when the matter was called up before a judge.

Passing sentence, Van Vuuren said the suspended part of the sentence will come into operation when they are released from prison and will hang over their heads to deter them from committing similar crimes again.

He found direct imprisonsment was the only suitable sentence in the case and said Lutchman and Singh had displayed a “startling and at times bewildering” degree of dishonesty and deceit during the trial and the build up to sentence.

He said he had taken considerable care to ensure that the court did not overemphasise the seriousness of the case to the detriment of the accuseds’ personal circumstances.

He was also satisfied — after hearing evidence and considering reports of social workers — that the couple’s teenage daughter would be cared for by family members in their absence. Their other children are adults.

In aggravation, he took into account that the couple had acted together and carefully planned the crime and continued to show no remorse. They had produced a false deed of sale in a bid to take transfer of the house, and presented other false documents to the municipality to secure lights and water in their name, he said.

Padayachee had lost the benefit of possessing her property for some eight years and had lost close to R250 000 in potential rental during that period as the accused did not pay her “a single cent” in rent, even though they had claimed to have improved the property.

Padayachee testified that she was being held accountable by the muncipality for a water bill already totalling R39 000 and said she also paid the rates on the property.

Van Vuuren said Padayachee’s emotional trauma was apparent when she testified.

Padayachee said she never considered selling the house, which she inherited from her mother and meant to pass on to her children.

Van Vuuren found the accuseds’ behaviour represented a danger to members of the public who wished to rent out property.

Above: Dinesh Lutchman outside the magistrate's court before sentence was passed yesterday.

Relieved

Padayachee told The Witness she was “relieved” Lutchman and Singh have been sentenced at last and will go to jail, and expressed gratitude for the support of prosecutor, Martin Mntambo “who stuck with case through thick and thin”. But she added that when her attorney approached Singh after the case to see if she and Lutchman were willing to vacate the house (as they’d said in court), she allegedly said their children and priest would be living there.

Addressing the court before sentencing Lutchman said he and Singh were “very,very sorry about everything”.

“If I could wave a magic wand and make it go away I would but this is the real world,” he said.

He said they and their family no longer wanted to carry on living in the house and planned to move to his mother’s home in Chase Valley by the end of January.

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