Court jails Australian petrol-bomber

2012-05-31 21:34

Cape Town - An Australian accountant who petrol-bombed the luxury home of Clifton businessman Philip Rhind was jailed for nine years on Thursday.

Shumsheer Singh Ghumman, 33, was sentenced in the Cape Town Regional Court for fraud, incitement to commit murder, attempted murder and malicious damage.

Francois van Zyl, for Ghumman, notified the court that he would launch an application for leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence.

The application would be brought on Friday next week, he told the court.

Magistrate Herman Pieters said Ghumman harboured a deep-rooted grudge against Rhind, for interfering in his relationship with Rhind's daughter Hannah.

"This case results from that grudge; Ghumman still has that grudge and there is no guarantee that he will not still have this grudge on his eventual release from prison," Pieters said.

"There is no guarantee that he will not repeat his actions to satisfy his grudge, when he is released from prison."

Hannah, who met Ghumman in the United Kingdom, believed their relationship was merely a platonic friendship, but she ended it when she realised that Ghumman had "romantic ideas".

When Ghumman persisted, however, Hannah turned to her father for protection, and the father warned Ghumman to leave her alone.

Ghumman followed secretly when Hannah went home to her parents, located the house and engaged a "hitman" with gangster connections to petrol-bomb the house.

However, when the "hitman" got cold feet, Ghumman did it himself, hurling three petrol bombs at the house.

The Rhind family survived the attempt to raze their home, and the incident gave rise to the incitement and attempted murder charges.

The malicious damage charge related to damage that Ghumman deliberately caused to the Rhind family's car.

On the fraud charge, Ghumman falsely informed senior Cape Town journalists, including Raymond Joseph, that he was a freelance journalist wanting to do a photo-story about gang violence in the Western Cape.

This resulted in Ghumman being introduced to the hitman.

Respect the law

Pieters said Ghumman's mother, medical practitioner Dr Nirmal Ghumman, had adopted a sensible approach in her testimony on her son's behalf.

"She said her son had to learn to respect the law, and not to take the law into his own hands."

Pieters said he did not believe that Hannah had "led Ghumman on", as claimed by Dr Ghumman.

He said no one except prosecuting counsel Billy Downer had acknowledged that Ghumman had acted in a wrongful manner, and Ghumman, to the very end, had blamed Rhind for his actions.

Of Rhind himself, Pieters said: "He wants a jail sentence, seemingly forever - he wants the court to put the accused away, and throw away the keys.

"He clearly is still an angry man."

He said the courts fulfilled an important function in the community, and given the levels of violence in the country, the case called for retribution and determent.

Sentence was not a scientific calculation, and it had to serve the public interest, but if it were too lenient it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute, he said.

Pieters said Ghumman was an educated and intelligent man, and "ought to have known better".

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