Wife killer sentenced to 18 years in prison

2012-08-29 00:00

TEARS and mixed feelings greeted an effective 18-year jail sentence handed to convicted wife killer Madhan Maharaj (49) in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court yesterday.

Regional magistrate Riaan de Wet described the way in which Caroline Rajah was bludgeoned to death on September 3, 2005, as a “brutal, savage and malicious attack on a defenceless woman”.

Some of Rajah’s relatives, including her mother, Lutchmee Rajah, expressed dismay that Maharaj was not sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder.

Others told The Witness they were glad that justice had prevailed and that he was going to jail for a long time.

Maharaj’s cousin, Kishaw Sewlal, who was the only relative to attend the sentencing, said Maharaj “could have avoided” killing his wife.

“He could have divorced her. But no matter what he did, his family must support him in prison.”

Sewlal said Maharaj’s relatives never knew where he was after his escape seven years ago and presumed him to be dead.

Tears streamed down the face of Maharaj’s estranged 15-year-old daughter after the sentencing, and family members told The Witness that she had learnt all the details about her mother’s brutal and painful death for the first time during the sentencing yesterday.

Maharaj had not seen his daughter from his marriage to Caroline Rajah, his second, since he escaped from Fort Napier hospital shortly after the murder.

De Wet said in his judgment that the minimum prescribed sentence for Rajah’s murder — which was not found to have been premeditated — was 15 years’ imprisonment. But because of the seriousness, prevalence and brutality of the offence, the court was satisfied that he deserved a higher sentence.

He further ordered that Maharaj must serve 12 years of his jail sentence before he can be considered for release on parole by the Correctional Services authorities.

De Wet said that after beating his wife with a metal handle all over her body till she bled, Maharaj left her to die a “painful and merciless death”. He only realised the next morning that she was dead, and one could only imagine the pain and suffering she had endured.

De Wet said the post mortem revealed the extent of the multiple injuries to Rajah’s body. Among the injuries detailed by the post mortem were fractures to 11 ribs, her wrist, damage to arteries to the heart, bruising of both lungs and lacerations of her liver and spleen.

De Wet termed Maharaj’s actions “uncivilised and inhumane”.

He said Maharaj had not shown true remorse for his actions, as for seven years he’d led a carefree existence while on the run from police. He did not spare a thought for the suffering and trauma of Rajah’s family who were unable to get closure. Had it not been for a break-in at the Phoenix school where Maharaj was employed as a caretaker (which resulted in his name being included on a database of witnesses), he may never have been caught.

Maharaj pleaded guilty to Rajah’s murder. In a statement to court he said he attacked her in anger after accusing her of having an affair, which she denied.

De Wet said Rajah’s sister, Roslyn, gave evidence that Caroline had told her that Maharaj assaulted her, that at times they heard arguments and Caroline crying. Three weeks before her murder, Caroline had left the marital home. She returned five days before Maharaj killed her.

• ingrido@witness.co.za

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