Papli accused denies guilt

2009-03-16 00:00

Pietermaritzburg salesman Nivesh Doodla (26) pleaded not guilty in an emotionally charged high court yesterday to the murder of his girlfriend, Gail Papli.

She was stabbed to death on February 10 last year. In a statement, he described her death as a “tragic accident”.

Doodla claims an argument turned violent and that Papli attacked him first with a knife. She was stabbed accidentally as they struggled over possession of the weapon, according to his statement.

Papli’s friends and relatives held a placard demonstration against women abuse outside the high court before the proceedings, held before Judge Anton van Zyl and two assessors.

Papli’s family — her mother, Sheila, father, Jagdaw and brothers Theo and Nash — were among the spectators who crowded the public gallery.

In a bizarre twist, Doodla’s father, Aumesh, gave evidence for the prosecution against his son. He was the person who found Papli’s body.

He testified that he went to her home looking for his son after receiving a frantic and “hysterical” phone call from Doodla in which his son said something to the effect that “something wrong happened and he did something wrong”.

Police sergeant Preggie Naidoo, who found Doodla sitting in his car at Truro Plaza with the engine idling and apparently trying to commit suicide, said he responded to a radio control message describing Doodla’s car. Radio control reported that the occupant allegedly killed his girlfriend and was “on his way to kill himself”.

He said there was blood on Doodla’s white T-shirt and pants and when he asked him whose it was, Doodla replied that he had had a “fight with his father”.

Naidoo also testified that on arrival at his parents’ home Doodla jumped out and told his mother; “I don’t have a girlfriend. Tell them I don’t have a girlfriend.”

Doodla, who is on bail, arrived at court flanked by his legal team. As he waited for the case to start, he sat with his lawyers with his head bowed at the front of the court, away from the crowd.

He sat unmoving when — in the absence of any court officials — members of the gallery stood up and prayed aloud for “justice”.

His advocate, Yoga Moodley, later handed the court a 10-page statement detailing Doodla’s defence.

In it Doodla describes how — when he felt for her pulse and realised Papli was dead — he was in an “absolute panic”.

“I felt totally helpless and the first thought that came to my mind was to kill myself. I realised that the love of my life was dead,” he said.

Doodla stated that he and Papli had been going out since 2006 and “loved each other very much”.

He alleged that in November 2007 Papli discovered she was pregnant and wanted an abortion, but he was against it. He capitulated and a procedure was performed on November 13, 2007, he said.

Doodla said that over the next few days Papli appeared “distressed and emotionally unstable” and blamed him for having made her pregnant. She told him she wanted to move on with her life and he should do the same.

Doodla said he started to see another woman, Lerusha Govender, but when Papli contacted him two weeks before his birthday on January 27 last year he “welcomed her back”.

Doodla said that in the days before her death, he and Papli argued over his relationship with Lerusha.

On the day she died — February 10 — he said he and Papli visited the Sexpo Exhibition in Durban.

That night they had sex at Papli’s residence, but afterwards Papli again questioned him about his relationship with Lerusha. She became “very emotional, frenzied and took my cellphone and threw it against the door”.

“She slapped me twice, pushed me away and was screaming at the top of her voice and being abusive towards me,” Doodla said.

Doodla said the argument turned to her pregnancy and the abortion, after which “all hell broke loose”.

“Thereafter she proceeded to the kitchen and returned with a knife. She came towards me in a state of hysteria with the knife in her hand.”

Doodla said they grappled with each other over the knife. Suddenly Papli released his hands and then he noticed that Papli was bleeding in the area around her neck.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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