Durban man’s passionate plea to overturn brother’s murder conviction

2016-02-18 10:30

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Pietermaritzburg - “My brother was very withdrawn. He was like a lost puppy.”.

This was how Durban man Rajen Sewnarain described his brother Rajiv’s condition on the day he appeared in the regional court and pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife, Shanaaz on December 10, 2010.

“To me, he definitely did not know what he was doing,” he told KZN Judge President Achmat Jappie and Judge Daya Pillay yesterday.

Rajen Sewnarain gave evidence in support of an application to overturn the conviction of Rajiv who is serving a life sentence for the murder.

The application is based on allegations that Rajiv was not mentally sound when he pleaded guilty to killing his wife in a staged hijacking incident, and was sentenced on December 22, 2010.

“I believe in his innocence …,” Rajen Sewnarain declared under cross examination by state advocate Attie Truter.

Rajen Sewnarain testified that he was dumbfounded when he heard his brother “screaming out” that he was going to “take the rap” during a meeting arranged by their eldest brother, Raj, at the Umhlanga offices of attorney Manoj Maharaj on December 20, 2010.

Rajen said he was in another room and did not speak to Rajiv on that day but heard him screaming at Raj.

“He said no one believes him, no one trusts him and so he is just going to take the rap,” he said.

The reason he did not intervene was because his “big brother” (Raj) always handled family matters, he said.

He told the court he was aware that Raj had appointed attorney Carl van der Merwe to represent his brother, although he never asked why this was necessary, and that a large sum of money was paid into Van der Merwe’s account on December 17.

He said Van der Merwe was present at the meeting at Maharaj’s offices but he did not talk to him.

He realised after the meeting that his brother had been taken away by the police, but said he did not question Raj about what was going to happen because he was “struck for words”.

Rajen was the only family member at court the day that his brother pleaded guilty and was jailed for life.

He told the judges he did not speak to Rajiv at all that day because Rajiv did not seem to want to talk to him and instead just sat with his head in his hands “like a lost puppy”.

Sewnarain said he did not realise his brother was going to plead guilty, otherwise he would have called Raj who might have taken some action.

“Perhaps we would not be in this position today,” he said.

Rajen said he had questioned the fact that Van der Merwe wasn’t at court to represent his brother but assumed his eldest brother was aware that another attorney, Devin Moodley, was representing him that day.

Rajen said he signed his brother’s handwritten statement without reading it because he didn’t have his glasses with him.

He did not think to question the attorney about what was happening at court, or to raise an objection when he heard his brother plead guilty because he did not know he could do so, he said.

State advocate Attie Truter and Advocate Shane Matthews for Sewnarain will present legal argument when the case resumes today.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime  |  court

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