Court absolves man of killer slap

2012-12-24 00:00

A PIETERMARITZBURG businessman has been acquitted of murder arising from an incident when he hit his brother-in-law at a hotel in Boksburg in March.

Yoganthan Naidoo (61) said he felt “amazing” and was greatly relieved when the not guilty verdict was delivered on Friday.

Naidoo, who owns Drakewoods in Victoria Road, said he hoped his brother-in-law Danabalan Ruthanam’s family will get closure and accept his innocence in the light of the court’s verdict, as the matter had caused a rift between them.

He expressed gratitude to his many supporters who contacted him after the story of his arrest broke, as well as his legal team, advocate Yoga Moodley SC and attorney Shereen Meersingh. In a statement handed to the regional court in Boksburg, Naidoo explained that he was emotional and was provoked into slapping his brother-in-law because Ruthanam had publicly accused him of “murdering” his wife, Asothie, who died in 2009 after undergoing chemotherapy for leukaemia.

Naidoo said he had never intended to harm Ruthanam. Naidoo said Ruthanam stumbled, lost his balance and fell backwards, with his head hitting the cement paving.

He was taken to hospital by ambulance and died about two weeks later on March 19.

The court accepted Naidoo’s version and found he was not guilty of committing any crime.

Naidoo said his wife was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2005, but after a bone marrow transplant the cancer went into remission.

The illness returned in January 2009, at which stage they were told she had two options — probable death within three months or undergoing further chemotherapy, which she had a 50% chance of surviving.

They opted for the chemotherapy, but Asothie died on April 7, 2009.

Naidoo said he and his children learned to cope with her death, but their memory of the suffering she endured, lingered.

On March 6 he and Ruthanam — who owns a similar business to his also named Drakewoods, but in Empangeni — attended a business conference at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg. During the function, an acquaintance had asked after his wife and he became emotional while discussing her illness and death.

Ruthanam had “butted in” and tried to put his arms around him.

He did not want him to do this, especially as Ruthanam often got drunk at functions and “made a nuisance of himself”, he said.

Naidoo said his brother-in-law became aggressive and swore at him and suddenly “out of the blue” began shouting at him that he (Naidoo) had murdered his sister.

He told him to “shut up” but Ruthanam carried on unabated.

Embarrassed and already in an emotional state, he slapped Ruthanam once on his face with his open hand, he said.

Ruthanam stumbled and fell.

“Someone then came to attend to the deceased (Ruthanam). I was so overwrought with emotion, embarrassed, hurt and disgusted by what the deceased said … that I walked out of the bar and sat outside. Later I looked into the bar area and saw the deceased sitting up and talking.”

Ruthanam was taken to hospital where he later died.

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