Man ‘saw crushed child’

2009-02-25 00:00

The husband of Orient Heights creche owner Roshini Devi Hemraj (44), charged with culpable homicide for allegedly causing the death of a baby in her care last year, is to be called as a state witness at his wife’s trial.

This emerged yesterday when Hemraj appeared in court before magistrate Dieter Schultz and pleaded not guilty to the charge that she wrongfully and unlawfully caused the death of nine-month-old baby girl Saiyona Moonsamy on July 29 last year when she allegedly drove a car into a group of children at her crèche in Brixham Road.

Hemraj elected to remain silent in relation to the incident and did not make any statement indicating the basis of her defence.

Vishnu Devsaran, who lives next door, said he was watching television at about 3 pm when he heard his daughter, aged eight years, crying. He went out and saw her standing in the Hemraj’s property. He went to her and carried her back over the fence to his own home. She did not say why she was crying.

Devsaran said he went back next door and heard “screaming and crying”.

On reaching the garage he saw a blue car parked in the single-vehicle garage and children outside crying.

“I was notified that there was a child unaccounted for [by Roshini Hemraj],” he said.

He said he offered to help move the car to get the child freed from the front as he had seen a child there.

“At that stage I didn’t get a complete view of the child,” he said. Later, he said the child was sitting in a walking ring and was “sandwiched” between the left front bumper of the car and a bed that was pushed against the wall at the front of the garage.

He got into the car — an automatic — through the passenger door (because the driver’s door was inaccessible). The gears were in neutral and the keys were in the ignition. Devsaran said Hemraj helped him to push the car and he remembered her removing the baby from the walking ring.

He said he left the premises “in a hurry” because he was concerned about his own daughter, whom he then took to hospital. “I didn’t speak to anyone about what happened,” he said.

Another neighbour, Sushiela Pather, said she heard one of her neighbours calling and saying “something” had happened at the Hemrajs’. On her arrival she heard someone say that the ambulance had been called, but had not yet come. She saw a baby lying “sleeping” wrapped in a shawl in a room in the house and she picked it up and rushed the child to Daymed Hospital in Raisethorpe.

Doctors and nurses took charge of the baby and she was not allowed into the room with them.

Pather said she did not speak to anyone at the scene about what had happened.

“I just took the baby to hospital, that’s all,” she said.

Before Hemraj pleaded to the charge yesterday, state prosecutor Ruan du Preez told the magistrate that he intends to bring an unusual application to compel Hemraj’s husband, Prakash, to co-operate with the state and to give evidence for the state.

Moments later however, Hemraj’s lawyer, Nershen Naicker, said the application was no longer necessary as Prakash Hemraj had indicated that he has “no problem” testifying if required to do so. Initially Hemraj intended to invoke matrimonial privilege, but changed his mind.

After the lunch adjournment Du Preez told the court he had consulted with Prakash Hemraj, but couldn’t complete his interview with him as Hemraj indicated that he needed his spectacles to read through his statement and had left them at home.

In another dramatic twist, Du Preez requested the magistrate to issue a warrant for the arrest of another state witness — Gary Ireland — who failed to attend court although he was allegedly subpoenaed to do so. The magistrate declined as he was not satisfied with the state’s documentation.

The trial will resume on June 17 and 18 this year.

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