Murder trial renewed

2015-12-02 10:01
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Pietermaritzburg - A full bench of the Pietermaritzburg high court has granted an application to re-open the murder trial of a KZN businessman and the alleged hitman he hired to kill his business partner.

This follows the discovery of a number of irregularities including the fact that two potential witnesses in the case — who were reported at the time of the trial to have died — are in fact alive.

Pranesh Heeralall, who reportedly owns a plumbing business and several properties (which at the time of his trial included a R1,6 million property in Umhlanga) was found guilty of hiring his co-accused Bobo Chamane to murder his business partner, Deenadayalan Govender, in 2004.

The state alleged Heeralall orchestrated the murder to benefit from R600 000 worth of life insurance policies after he and Govender insured each other’s lives.

Govender was shot dead at a building site in Verulam on July 16, 2004.

In April 2011, Judge Thumba Pillay sentenced Heeralall to 25 years in prison, and Chamane to 20 years.

When the case came on appeal before a full bench of the high court in Pietermaritzburg in February this year, legal representatives were made aware of crucial new evidence that had emerged and they applied to re-open the trial.

The court was told that an investigation had been launched by a member of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, Martias Tabede, in response to a complaint by Chamane that the son of the murder victim, Killendran Govender, had approached him in prison and allegedly tried to persuade him to abandon his appeal and implicate Heeralall in the murder.

“It seems the intention [by Govender] was to derail attempts by me to appeal my conviction,” Heeralall said in court papers.

The subsequent investigation by Tabede uncovered various alleged “irregularities” in the original trial, which included the fact that it had been claimed at the trial that an eyewitness to the murder, Zanele Lily Mkhize, was dead and could not testify, when she is in fact alive.

It was also alleged that a falsified statement, claimed to have been made by her, was presented as evidence.

Another eyewitness, Wiseman Dlamini, was also not called to testify at the trial and it appeared that the police never took a statement from him.

Acting Judge Kobus Booyens with Judge Thoba Poyo Dlwati and Judge Nkosinathi Chili, said it was apparent that the evidence of these two witnesses could influence the outcome of the case.

They ordered that the case should be remitted to the trial court to hear the testimony of these two witnesses, as well as that of Tabede and a policeman, retired SAPS Captain Lucky Mhlongo.

It emerged that the trial court was also told at the time that Mhlongo was deceased, but it now turns out he is alive.

The judges said they were uncertain if Mhlongo’s evidence would contribute in any way to the case, but the defence ought to be allowed to call him if they want to.

Both Heeralall and Chamane are currently on bail.

Heeralall has been on bail throughout his trial, and pending his appeal, but Chamane was in custody until this year.

According to an affidavit by him, he has effectively served a total of 12 years in prison from the time of his arrest.

In an affidavit, Heeralall says that one of the most important issues at their trial was whether or not his business partner was killed in a robbery or a “planned hit”.

He said an affidavit by Wiseman Dlamini — the eyewitness who wasn’t called to testify — makes it apparent that Govender was the victim of a robbery.

In his affidavit, which was attached to the court papers, Dlamini says he accompanied Govender to the bank on the day of his murder, and they were followed by two men in a white bakkie to Verulam, where he saw one of the men pointing a gun at Govender and demanding money.

He ran to get help from some construction workers and as he did so he heard gunshots.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  murder  |  court

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