Accused caught on CCTV

2009-03-17 00:00

Forty minutes before she was found stabbed to death in a toilet at Gani’s Flats in Pietermaritzburg on February 24 at 10.30 am, CCTV video footage captured mother of two Fiona Khader (27) entering the block with her mother-in-law, Romila Singh (55) Singh stands accused of her murder.

They were closely followed by an unknown black man who is being sought by police.

This man and Singh were seen entering and leaving the building “four or five times” more in close proximity to each other and this could “not be a coincidence”.

This evidence was given yesterday by investigating officer Inspector Swami Pillay, who is opposing the granting of bail to Singh before Pietermaritzburg magistrate Z. Dlamini.

Pillay alleged in his evidence that Singh also tried to create an alibi for herself for the time of the murder by lodging a false robbery complaint with the police in Durban

Singh claimed to have been robbed of her handbag in central Durban at 11 am that day, Pillay said.

He said police recovered the handbag and documents she reported stolen during a search of her flat in Beatrice Street.

Pillay expressed fears that Singh would be a flight risk if she were released on bail due to the seriousness of the charge and the evidence that she is now aware of.

He said he also believes she would “definitely” try to influence witnesses — her own children with whom she lives.

He described Singh as a “violent” person and said her children — all adults up to the age of 45 — have given “heartbreaking” accounts of what they have been through at her hands.

“Each and every one went through a very hard time. She would sjambok them, yet they were adults,” said Pillay.

Pillay said he has ruled out robbery as the motive for Khader’s murder as there were two cellphones in her possession as well as a document identifying her, R20 and some loose change.

Pillay said Khader was found in the cleaner’s toilet lying on her back with her head in the pan and her legs “folded up” to her chest.

He said she had two potentially fatal stab wounds — one severing the carotid artery of the neck and the other to the abdominal artery.

On the day of the murder, he said, Singh went to to fetch Khader’s child from school.

When asked by the principal where the child’s mother was, she “unwittingly” replied that she was “in Pietermaritzburg”.

He said that in his opinion Singh did not want to give her daughter-in-law freedom to “live her young life” and divorce her son, who had left two years previously to go and live with another woman.

Khader was living in Singh’s home and would go onto the streets daily “rain or shine” to sell samoosas on Singh’s behalf.

He said Singh also did not want Khader to take away her grandchildren, aged three and seven years.

Khader wanted a “Muslim divorce” from her husband, Rakesh Singh (also known as Riaz Khan), in order to marry the man she had fallen in love with.

Her lover was named as a Pakistani, Abdullah Khan, whom she met while he was boarding with Romila Singh.

Pillay said he established during his investigation that Khader attempted to leave her mother-in-law’s home last December.

Someone she confided in arranged for a police escort and she collected her clothing and children and went into hiding.

On this occasion, Romila Singh allegedly threatened Khader, telling her she would “not live long” because she was taking the children away.

He said Singh immediately called her sons — including Khader’s absent husband — to start searching for Khader.

Pillay said Abdullah Khan helped Khader to get to safety in Pretoria, and when the family came to know about it they “cornered him” and severely assaulted him.

Singh herself took part in the assault, he said.

The court heard that Khader was persuaded to return home with the promise of the divorce she wanted — which then never materialised.

Singh’s attorney, Siva Chetty, handed in an affidavit prepared by his client. He said that apart from indicating that she intends to plead “not guilty” to the murder charge, she declines to discuss the merits of the case.

Singh describes herself as a “simple woman who does not have the means or the aptitude” to influence the functioning of the justice system.

She also maintains she is a “sickly” person who suffers from “potentially fatal” bone marrow cancer for which she has had two operations. She is due to have her spleen removed in April.

The bail application will continue on March 24.

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