Petrol-bomber wants case re-opened
Johannesburg - Australian Shumsheer Singh Ghumman made a last-minute bid on Monday to have his trial for arson and fraud re-opened in the Cape Town Regional Court.
Magistrate Herman Pieters had been scheduled to deliver judgment in the case on Monday.
Instead, a notification was delivered to him in his chambers that the defence team would launch an application to re-open its case.
Ghumman has pleaded guilty to a charge of arson, but not guilty to charges of fraud, incitement to commit murder, attempted murder and malicious damage to property.
The charges followed his allegedly throwing petrol bombs at the Clifton, Cape Town, home of businessman Philip Rhind, with whose daughter Hannah, Ghumman had a friendship in the UK.
Ghumman, at the time a specialised investment manager with a major bank in the UK, claimed in court he had had a romantic relationship with Hannah, a pharmaceutical sales executive.
He believed Hannah's father was involved in their break-up.
During the proceedings, Ghumman admitted petrol-bombing the Rhind home, out of anger over the father's interference with his relationship.
At Monday's proceedings, senior counsel for the defence, Francois van Zyl, told the court Ghumman felt aggrieved over the manner in which prosecutor Billy Downer had presented testimony for the State and, because of this, felt he had not received a fair trial.
Ghumman's unhappiness revolved around the testimony of State witness Siyabulela Yalezo, who had told police he had initially accepted money to petrol bomb the Rhind home, but later changed his mind. However, in his court testimony, Yalezo made no mention of any offer of payment.
The application was granted and the result was that Downer had to temporarily step down as the prosecutor. Fiona Cloete, who had assisted him, took over and called Downer to the witness stand to testify about Yalezo.
Downer told the court that, prior to calling Yalezo to the stand, he had been under the impression that Yalezo would testify in accordance with his statement to the police.
Downer handed to the court an affidavit in which he stated he had initiated criminal proceedings against Yalezo on charges of perjury and defeating the ends of justice, as a result of the discrepancy in his testimony.
Downer said he had had no reason to believe that Yalezo, in his testimony, would deviate from in his statement to the police.
Judgment is now expected on February 29.