Mother’s killer to serve 20 years

2009-08-19 00:00

THE family of Howick Falls murder victim Anthea Govindsamy was yesterday divided as to whether the 20-year jail term imposed on her killer husband, 41-year-old Jaiseelan Govindsamy, was a just sentence.

Two of her three sisters — who requested that their names not be published — said nothing less than the death penalty could be regarded as a just punishment for what Govindsamy had done.

The third sister said she believed the sentence was appropriate. Nothing could bring her sister back in any event.

Her only concern was for the welfare of Anthea’s two sons, who are now at the heart of a custody battle between the families.

In her judgment, Judge Esther Steyn said that whatever sentence was passed is “not to satisfy public opinion but to serve the public interest”.

“It seems that some courts are under a misapprehension that what is required of a sentencing court is to satisfy the community in passing sentence. I disagree,” the judge emphasised.

She stated, however, that she was mindful that the victim, Anthea Govindsamy, was “no longer in front of this court”.

“Whatever sentence is therefore imposed today should give recognition to the fact that she once was a woman, a wife, a sister, a daughter and also a mother of two young boys.

“That she had hopes and expectations which were abruptly brought to an end when the accused decided to callously stab her 19 times and killed her.”

Judge Steyn said the court had rejected Govindsamy’s defence (that he had not been able to control his actions) and the state’s version that the killing was “goal-directed and premeditated” had been accepted.

“It follows that the accused was killed in cold blood in front of her own children and in the presence of her best friend,” she said.

Steyn said the proved facts showed that Govindsamy deprived Anthea of the choice to leave him and the words he uttered that “If I can’t have you, no one else will, till death us do part”, was indicative of his determination to succeed in his aim.

She said defence lawyer Kevin Chetty’s argument that Anthea contributed to the consequences of that fateful day was “not borne out by the facts proved”.

Steyn said there was no evidence of any provocation on Anthea’s part and it was a mistake to lay any blame for what transpired at the Falls at Anthea’s door.

However, the judge said she did find that compelling and substantial circumstances were present, which entitled the court to impose less than the minimum prescribed sentence of life imprisonment on Govindsamy.

These facts (regarded cumulatively) were that:

• Govindsamy is a first offender;

• He had been in a depressive state since 2006 brought about by his son’s illness and an inability to deal with Anthea’s decision to divorce him;

• He had sought help for his depression;

• He had consumed alcohol and drugs prior to the stabbing;

• He showed no propensity to violence before the murder.

Govindsamy’s psychologist’s evidence about his personality and case history of depression was also taken into account.

On the other hand, she said, Govindsamy had planned and executed the murder without showing “any emotion or care” and no consideration for the well-being of his children who witnessed the stabbing.

“It is evident … that the children were affected by the killing of their mother and the subsequent arrest of their father.

“This is certainly a factor counting in aggravation of sentence,” the judge said.

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