Sexual assault charge ‘false’

2015-10-13 11:30
Rajivee Soni at court.

Rajivee Soni at court. (Ian Carbutt, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - A woman has said she falsely charged local doctor Bhavish Sewram with sexual ­harassment in 2012, but claims the facts were based on a “real” assault on her by the doctor two years earlier.

Sonali Sookraj (23) testified yesterday at the trial of businessman Rajivee Soni, who is charged with the doctor’s murder in 2013.

She told Judge Jacqueline Henriques and assessor Gerhard Barnard that her ­stepfather, Zaheer Khan, had asked her to falsely charge the doctor in August 2012, and she had agreed to the scheme.

Under cross examination by defence ­attorney Naren Sangham, she said she had wanted to “get back at the doctor” for what he had done to her two years previously.

She was not paid any money.

Sookraj said she told Khan she was ­prepared to lay a false charge against Sewram, and he then went to where a white double-cab bakkie was parked and spoke to two men in the vehicle, one of whom was Soni.

“I know his face,” she told the court.

Sookraj said Khan took her to Sewram’s surgery the same day. She consulted the ­doctor, complaining of headaches.

“The doctor gave me medication, I paid him and walked out,” she said.

Sookraj and Khan then went to the Family Violence and Sexual Offences unit in ­Willowton Road, where she opened a false sexual harassment case against Sewram.

They were met by Mountain Rise ­policeman Captain Pipes Haffajee, who took her to see a Captain Charmaine van der Westhuizen.

“I complained that the doctor touched me sexually on my breast and on my thighs,” she said.

The defence then confronted her with her detailed police statement, which describes exactly how the doctor allegedly fondled her. Sookraj responded that this had really ­happened, “but not on that day”.

“It was real, but it happened two years ­before,” she said.

Sookraj said she had reported the sexual assault to her mother at the time, but had not charged Sewram then.

“She [her mother] said, ‘We won’t go back to the doctor again and just leave it at that’,” she said.

She agreed that what she had described was a “serious violation” of her body, and said she regretted not opening a case.

However, Sookraj insisted that the ­complaint she filed against the doctor on August 21, 2012, was “not true and was false”.

She never went to court about it, and was aware the case was withdrawn “because of CCTV footage”.

Sangham questioned her in detail about the police investigations that took place in connection with the allegedly false case.

He said Sewram was eventually only ­arrested and charged in October 2012.

Sookraj was also examined by a doctor.

Sangham said the doctor, who was independent, reported the medical evidence was “consistent” with her version of events. He had noted a bruise on her shin, tenderness on her arm, and described her as “distressed”.

Sookraj testified the bruise was caused when she bumped herself at a shop on the same day she laid the false complaint.

She admitted it was “strange” that it should have happened the same day.

However, when it was suggested to her that the sexual harassment in fact occurred on ­August 21, 2012, she remained adamant that it had happened two years earlier.

Sookraj denied she was put under pressure by anyone to say that her complaint against the doctor was false.

The case has been adjourned until ­Thursday, while the state prepares to lead ­further evidence

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court  |  soni

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