VATHER: Witness says he lied after HIV infection threat

2008-05-06 00:00

An awaiting trial prisoner who gave evidence against Pietermaritzburg wife-murder accused Nico Vather a week ago told the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday he lied after Vather threatened to pass the HI virus on to him.

“He [Vather] told me that if I happen to say anything he will give me his Aids by cutting his hand and assaulting me and giving me his blood,” Jason Chetty told Judge Piet Koen and two assessors.

Chetty, a former cellmate of Vather’s in Pietermaritzburg’s New Prison, confirmed evidence

he gave on April 25, about a fight he allegedly witnessed between Vather and another detainee, Mark David, in prison, and said David subsequently confided in him that he was going to testify against Vather at his trial to “get revenge”.

However, Chetty said he lied in his evidence about “some things”, and said he decided to contact the investigating officer, Inspector Phillip Lemmer, and come to court again to testify because he “felt guilty” for having told lies and for having lied to Vather’s in-laws — the parents of Valentia Vather who was found stabbed to death in the flat she shared with Vather in Prestbury on November 3, 2005.

“I thought they deserve to know the truth,” he said.

Under cross-examination by defence advocate Di Franklin, Chetty denied that he was promised “indemnity” on the charges he faces, and said he no longer fears Vather because he has been promised “some security” and that he will be kept safe in prison. Chetty testified yesterday that Vather in fact also confessed to him, while they were imprisoned together, that he murdered his wife.

He said he met Vather in jail for the first time in 2003 when Vather was jailed for allegedly smashing his father-in-law’s window, and again when he broke his parole conditions. The third time was in 2005, when Vather was arrested for Valentia’s murder.

“I asked him, ‘What are you here for?’ He told me he killed his wife,” said Chetty.

Chetty said at the time he shared a cell with another prisoner, Anil Ranjid, who took prescribed tablets. He alleged that Vather stole the tablets on one occasion and took an overdose for which he was admitted to Edendale hospital.

When he returned, Chetty said he confronted him about the theft of the tablets. “He [Vather] then told me he can’t spend 25 years in jail,” he said.

Chetty claimed that on a subsequent occasion in 2006, Vather explained to him “about his case” and the day he killed his wife.

He said Vather told him that he and his wife argued that evening about Yasmin Shaik — the woman Vather alleges he had an affair with and whom he claims to have left alone with his wife the night she was killed.

Chetty said Vather said they were arguing over the protection orders that Shaik and his wife had both obtained against him.

“He told me that while they were arguing there was this carrot knife next to him. He hit her [Valentia Vather] on the head a couple of times … his wife told him that she’s going to phone the police and charge him … he told me that he was scared to come back to jail. Then he said he took this knife and then he poked [stabbed] her on the neck. Then he went back to the kitchen and he took a kitchen knife and then he poked [stabbed] her in the chest. He said he pushed the whole knife into her chest.”

Chetty said Vather said he washed his hands and changed his clothing, before taking his son and putting him near his mother. He then left, but took the “carrot knife” he had used and threw it into a bin outside.

Chetty said Vather told him he went drinking at HQ bar before going to an escort agency, where he picked up two prostitutes for R500 each. “He told me he slept with them without a condom,” he said.

Chetty said Vather said that after taking a shower he felt suicidal and thought about jumping from his aunt’s flat. He later went to the flat of two friends at Hassim Centre, where he tried to jump off the balcony, but was talked out of it.

Another defence witness, Andrew Marais, also a prisoner, told the court Chetty told him on May 2 he was “going out” (of prison) and claimed to be expecting indemnity in exchange for testifying against Vather.

Judgment is expected today.

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