Soni airs ‘dirty laundry’

2017-08-01 14:03
Rajivee Soni.

Rajivee Soni. (Jonathan Burton)

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Murder accused Rajivee Soni on Monday commenced a public airing of his “dirty laundry” in court over his wife’s alleged infidelity with murder victim Dr Bhavish Sewram.

More than four years after Sewram was gunned down by a hired killer outside his Chota Motala Road surgery, Soni (41) on Monday took the witness stand before Judge Jacqueline Henriques and assessor Gerhard Barnard, to defend himself against the charge that he masterminded the late doctor’s murder.

He denied he embarked on a “campaign” to drive Sewram out of town out of revenge, or that he had the doctor shot in May 2013.

Soni testified that he was once so close to Sewram that he regarded him “as a brother”. But this started to change during 2011 when he became suspicious about the doctor’s relationship with his wife, Kerusha, prompted by “strange” encounters between him and Sewram.

He told of an occasion when Sewram spoke to him in an untoward manner at the scene where his [Soni’s] wife was involved in a car accident and when Sewram allegedly “belittled” him on BBM group chats with comments like ‘That’s if Soni can read?’ and ‘Soni can’t spell. He only did Std 7”.

“My response to that was ‘at least I know how to make money’,” Soni testified.

He said one night when leaving a social function, Sewram walked up and simply hit him “in the groin”.

“I fell to the ground ... There was so much pain I was almost in tears. The other guests actually contemplated taking me to the hospital … [Sewram] just laughed and said he was playing,” said Soni.

He said in July 2011 whilst out playing in the snow with their group of friends at Nottingham Road, Sewram started throwing snowballs at him “aiming at my face with a lot of force”.

“It was hurting so I took my daughter and moved to my car to avoid getting hit,” he said. “It was the strangest thing … it was only towards me that this force was used. I couldn’t understand why Bhavish was behaving towards me in this manner,” he said.

Soni said he was also upset when in October 2011 he’d planned a trip with his wife and child to Singapore, Bangkok and Thailand but his wife told him she would rather join her friend, Yuvadia Sewram, and her family at Sun City.

“I couldn’t understand that a lady would not want to shop in Bangkok and rather go to Sun City,” said Soni.

He said on December 26, 2011 — two days before he and his family were due to leave for Thailand — he spotted a white BlackBerry phone lying on the kitchen table.

He asked his wife whose it was and when she saw it in his hand she “seemed shocked”.

She initially claimed it was her mother’s but eventually admitted it was given to her by Sewram.

Soni saw a message from Sewram to his wife asking her: “When are we going to have our white Christmas?”

He said his wife told him Sewram gave her the phone so she could tell him what Soni was “up to”.

He said his wife went on to accuse him of participating in sexual activities with strippers at a stag party, which was untrue, and of taking “overseas business guests” to Teasers in Durban.

He admitted the latter did happen and said the only person who had known this was Sewram.

Soni said he discussed his marital problems with his mother and sisters, who advised him to “go on the trip” to Thailand and deal with it on his return.

He and Kerusha went to Thailand as arranged and “had a normal holiday”, he said. However, he thought that Sewram’s wife, Yuvadia, ought to be told about her husband giving Kerusha a “secret” phone.

On the evening of their return home, on January 12, 2012 he called Yuvadia to arrange a meeting. They met the same night at the home of Sewram’s parents-in-law.

Soni said they were “supposed to just talk” but when Yuvadia and her mother (Pritha Singh) heard what he had to say, they began “hitting, slapping and kicking” the doctor and Kerusha.

He said Pritha Singh swore at her son-in-law using the F-word and swung her arm at his head, striking his temple. “The deceased [Sewram] had a glass eye socket that dislodged and he started bleeding from his eye … He held his eye as he sat on the settee. He said to me, ‘I only flirted with her. There was nothing physical’,” said Soni.

Soni told the court that the assaults continued. Singh obtained a “colourful sjambok” and started “whipping” the doctor repeatedly with the weapon while he lay “screaming and crying” on the floor.

“While this was happening Yuvadia Sewram came and told me I must ‘break him’ but I said I can’t. I was more shocked than anything,” said Soni.

He said following this incident Kerusha refused to report the assault to the police, saying she “owed” it to Yuvadia not to charge her.

A few days later it emerged from cellphone records produced by Yuvadia that the communications between Kerusha and the doctor on their so-called “secret phone” had been going on for some 18 months.

Soni said he instituted divorce proceedings against his wife and also sought interim custody of their child.

However, the divorce was put on hold later after he and Kerusha reconciled. The case is proceeding.

Soni faces a charge that he arranged for the murder of Dr Bhavish Sewram by confessed hired hitman Sabelo Dlamini on May 13, 2013.

He is also charged with having conspired to murder Sewram on an earlier occasion, and faces five counts of defeating or obstructing the course of justice and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm arising from what the state alleges was a campaign launched by him to ‘exact vengeance’ on Sewram over his suspected affair with his wife, Kerusha.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  soni murder trial

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