11 years on: ANOTHER DEATH

2017-07-26 13:33
Sunesh Manilall  and his lover, Mumtaz Osman, outside court during the early stages of their trial in Pietermaritzburg for the murder of Monika Manilall on February 3, 2006.

Sunesh Manilall and his lover, Mumtaz Osman, outside court during the early stages of their trial in Pietermaritzburg for the murder of Monika Manilall on February 3, 2006. (File)

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Eleven years after becoming enmeshed in a love triangle, Howick businessperson Sunesh Manilall has ended his life rather than face the music for orchestrating his first wife’s murder and spend the rest of his life in jail.

On Monday night he shot himself in the yard of his family home in Howick West which he currently shared with his parents, his third wife and his three children — two of them born of his 12-year marriage to murder victim Monika Manilall.

Monika was gunned down in the same house on February 3, 2006, by hitmen hired by Manilall and his then lover, Mumtaz Osman, who went on to marry him under Muslim rites.

She has been in jail since 2010, serving a life sentence for her role in the killing.

Manilall’s death sent shock waves reverberating through the small community of Howick and drew a heated exchange of views on The Witness’ Facebook page — some calling him a “coward” for not facing up to what he did, and others urging sympathy for his bereaved family.

The chilling details of Monika’s murder that emerged during the course of the trials of the various role players in the killing — including Sunesh Manilall, Osman, “middle man” Victor Mbatha, and hired killers Siyabonga Mdlalose and Phumlani Madlala — revealed that a few days before her death Sunesh arranged a shopping expedition to the local Spar so that the assailants could observe and identify their target.

Unbeknown to Monika, Sunesh had earlier contacted Osman, who was in a car with some of the killers at the time, to tell her when they were leaving for the Spar.

Osman, along with two of the hired hitmen and trusted accomplice Mbatha, had followed Manilall’s white BMW to the parking lot at the supermarket and watched him and Monika emerge.

Sunesh carried the couple’s young baby in his arms as he accompanied his wife into the shop, closely followed by two of the killers who entered the shop so as to observe Monika “properly” so that they would recognise her easily.

The two hitmen who testified in the case were Siyabonga Mdlalose (who pleaded guilty and is serving life) and Phumlani Madlala. Two others, Sithembiso Ngwenya and a man named “Mzolo”, died before the trial started.

Because Mdlalose had already pleaded guilty, he was called as a state witness in the case against Osman, Sunesh and Mbatha.

The truthfulness of his testimony was questioned after he suddenly turned around after two weeks and claimed to have been coerced, but the trial judge rejected this claim as “lies”.

In his evidence and plea, Mdlalose admitted he was the one who pulled the trigger, killing Monika.

He and Madlala said all three killers were driven to the scene by Mbatha. Osman was also in the car and had pointed out the residence where the murder was going to take place.

Osman had told them that Sunesh would not be home and that the kitchen door would be unlocked.

She also said there would be money in a cupboard and they should take it to “make it look like a robbery”.

Mdlalose said he, Ngwenya and Madlala entered via the kitchen as planned. He had a gun.

He could hear a woman singing and as he opened a door in the passage he “bumped” into Monika Manilall, who had a small child with her. She retreated backwards but as she did so he shot her.

She fell down in the passage but then rose again and ran to the bedroom and pressed a panic alarm.

As she did this Mdlalose shot her in the head.

Before fleeing the scene, the assailants picked up the spent cartridges as instructed.

When sentencing Sunesh, Osman and Mbatha for their role, the late KZN Judge President Herbert Msimang commented how disquieting it was that the killers were prepared to commit murder for the promise of a mere R10 000.

He said it made one realise how cheap human life has become.

He was also disappointed that human morality had “sunk so low” that Sunesh was prepared to murder the very person he had said he loved.

In their own evidence, Sunesh and Osman admitted that they had an adulterous affair but denied having orchestrated Monika’s murder.

Osman said Sunesh had told her he was “happily married” and this was “fine” with her as they were merely attracted to one another.

It was only in August 2013 — while already serving a life sentence — that Osman decided to come clean and confessed her involvement in the murder to The Witness.

Sunesh, however, went on denying any part in the matter through thick and thin, and finally exhausted all his appeal options when the Constitutional Court dismissed his final application on January 30 this year.

In his evidence on April 23, 2010, Sunesh revealed that shortly before her murder Monika had found out about his affair with Osman and threatened to divorce him unless he ended it.

However, he said that although he might have had an apparent motive to kill his wife, he did not do so.

He also said he’d never suspected Osman or Mbatha of involvement in his wife’s death.

He testified that when he rushed home in response to news of his wife’s murder he had been hysterical with shock.

State advocate Attie Truter confronted Sunesh and Osman in court with cellphone records that proved that on the day Monika was murdered Osman was in the Merrivale-Pietermaritzburg area and not in Pinetown as she had claimed.

She also made 11 calls to Sunesh in five hours, between 8.17 am and 1.17 pm on the day of the murder.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  manilall murder case

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