Shaw seeks payback

2013-06-08 00:00

SIX years after Susan Shaw died violently at a remote country estate in KwaZulu-Natal, her husband Hilton is suing authorities for R9,4 million.

Shaw was found guilty in 2009 of shooting his wife, but was acquitted of her murder, on appeal, in 2011.

He now maintains the KZN Director of Public Prosecutions and the ministers of Justice and Police are liable to pay him damages of R9 424 800, because he should not have been arrested and prosecuted in the first place.

In a summons that was served on the registrar of the high court on May 27, Shaw claims the investigation against him was “characterised by significant shortcomings”.

He further alleges that his prosecution “maliciously” proceeded despite there being no eye witnesses as well as “clear indications arising from objective forensic evidence” that he wasn’t responsible for shooting his wife.

These included the fact that no primer (gun) residue was found on his hands or clothes.

Shaw also claims the investigating officer gave “blatantly perjured evidence” at his 2007 bail application about the merits of the state’s case, as a result of which bail was refused.

He was refused bail four times and served six months in custody before being granted bail on appeal to the high court.

Shaw says as a result of his wrongful arrest, detention and trial, his constitutional rights were violated and he endured “pain, loss of amenities of life, shock, extreme humiliation, grave infringement of his dignity, bodily and psychological integrity, health and physical and mental wellbeing”.

He was also prevented from working full-time, and had to incur legal costs as a result of his “unlawful arrest, detention and malicious prosecution”.

He maintains he is still suffering from stress, and part of his claim is for past and future medical expenses, including psychotherapy.

Shaw was jailed for 12 years by Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner on June 15, 2009.

She found it was “overwhelmingly probable” that the couple had struggled and that Shaw had shot his wife, the bullet entering her body just above her right armpit.

Niles-Duner rejected Shaw’s suggestion that his wife committed suicide or that she was attacked by an intruder on June 3, 2007 at the home at Lake Lyndhurst estate, Fort Nottingham, which is far from other homes in very rough terrain.

But on July 19, 2011, KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Chiman Patel, Judge Dhaya Pillay and Judge Graham Lopes disagreed and set Shaw free.

In their opinion, they said it was a “real possiblity” that Susan Shaw committed suicide because she’d tried twice before to take her own life by overdosing on pills, and had consulted a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist for depression.

She had an unusually high tolerance for, or abused, alcohol and this also suggested “emotional and psychological instability”.

The appeal court, however, agreed that the “intruder theory was weak” as nothing was missing from the house, not even the firearm used to shoot Shaw, and because the “gruelling terrain” counted against the theory.

Shaw claimed at his trial he’d left the house for “10 to 15 minutes” and on his return saw Susan lying face down on the verandah. He first thought she was having an epileptic fit, but when he turned her over he saw blood and a gunshot wound in her chest.

He said his “first assumption” was that his wife had committed suicide, but he later thought it possible that she had been murdered by an intruder with his 9 mm pistol.

The state has still to respond to the summons.

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