Woman acquitted of husband's murder after 2 years in jail

2017-04-06 14:35
Thenjiwe Griffiths during her trial. (File)

Thenjiwe Griffiths during her trial. (File) (File)

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Durban - A woman serving a life sentence for the murder of her alcoholic husband during an alleged fake hijacking is expected to walk free from prison on Thursday after three appeal judges overturned her conviction.

Thenjiwe Griffiths has been in Westville Prison for more than two years after she was found guilty of murder and robbery, relating to the death of her 60-year-old husband Allan Griffiths in 2006.

Her attorney Narainsamy Naidoo told News24 today that he had the necessary documentation from court and was on his way to the prison to get his client released.

"I do not believe she needs to spend one more minute behind bars," he said.

In an interview with News24 moments after her release, Thanjiwe said she heard at 13:00 that she was going home.

“I thought it was an April fools joke. Then I looked at the date. I am more than happy. I think I am dreaming.
“I am so grateful to my lawyers….and to God,” she said before heading home to her mom in Pietermaritzburg.

Allan Griffiths, who also had bipolar disorder, had been medically boarded from his job at the Richards Bay Municipality when he met Thenjiwe, then 25.

'Call girl'

Evidence in the initial trial before Judge Rishi Seegobin, sitting in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg, was that Thenjiwe was a "call girl" at a local adult entertainment restaurant.

He used to pay for her services, it was alleged, but then a relationship developed between them and they got married, in community of property, in April 2005.

The State led evidence which tended to show that she married him for his money, that she believed mistakenly that he was worth R5m (in fact about R893 000), and that during their short marriage, she had physically and emotionally abused him, drained his bank and clothing accounts, kept him locked up, and "abducted" him to live in Gauteng.

This was to remove him from his family, his sister and his ex-wife.

The State alleged - and the court found - that she had "cunningly masterminded" the crime by setting up the "alleged hijacking" which took place when they were travelling from Gauteng to Pietermaritzburg to visit her relatives.

His body was found in long grass on the side of a quiet road near Colenso. He had been strangled.

Thenjiwe denied the charges against her. She denied she had been a "prostitute", and said they had been very much in love.

She said they had only ever spent two nights apart. The reason for the move to Gauteng was to "get away" from his relatives, who were interfering.

'Hearsay evidence'

On the night of the hijacking, she claimed that one of the hijackers had taken her out of the car and attempted to rape her. She was left on the roadside when the hijackers drove off with her husband.

She went straight to the police station and reported the crime.

On appeal, KwaZulu-Natal Deputy Judge President Isaac Madondo (with Judges Anton Van Zyl and Esther Steyn concurring), said the trial judge had been wrong to take "hearsay evidence" into account.

This was the evidence of a local lawyer - who claimed that Allan had been to see him twice, complaining about his "abusive" marriage and saying he wanted a divorce - and the evidence of Allan's sister, who claimed she told him he had made a mistake in getting married, and who went with him when he obtained a domestic violence protection order.

Judge Madondo said there was no evidence that Allan had been in possession of his senses when he allegedly made these statements, noting that he was an alcoholic who suffered from bipolar disorder and, according to the evidence, had not been taking his medication.

"There was no corroboration for this hearsay evidence," he said.

Without this, the only other evidence against Thenjiwe was the allegation that she had taken police to the area where the body was found.

This evidence, however, was not properly tested and also should be ruled inadmissible because Thenjiwe claimed she had been assaulted by police, she had taken them to the general area of the hijacking, and the body had been spotted by a police officer.

Judge Madondo said: "The [trial] court found that she had no income of her own... and that she was not really interested in him, but in his money.

"The court seems to have got carried away with the hearsay evidence that she was a young, capricious call girl, who married for money and property and, as a result, gave inadequate consideration to the weight to be attached to the evidence tendered by the State."

He said, while Thenjiwe's evidence - which at times was contradictory - could be criticised, the State had not tendered any direct evidence proving her guilty.

Read more on:    durban  |  crime

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