Nicky Rattray tells of husband’s murder

2008-03-05 00:00

A calm and dignified Nicky Rattray, wife of slain historian David Rattray, told the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday the murder of her husband on January 26, 2007 has had a devastating effect on her and her family.

Rattray testified for the first time at the trial of two of the alleged killers — Simphiwe Ndlovu (25) and Sibonele Xolani Mpanza (28), both of Hlazakaze area, Nqutu, near the Isandlwana battlefield that drew tourists to the Rattrays’ Fugitives’ Drift Lodge.

Both men pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Three other members of the gang have pleaded guilty in separate earlier trials and each were jailed for 25 years.

One of them, Zwelilihle Mtshali, also gave state evidence yesterday. He identified Mpanza as the person who masterminded a plan to rob David Rattray.

The other two who admitted guilt are Fethe Sibusiso Nkwanyana and Thembinkosi Mfanafuthi Ndlovu (who admitted shooting Rattray).

State advocate Dorian Paver said in his opening address the state will show that the robbery was planned by Mpanza, who had worked at the lodge property as a labourer employed by a builder, and who knew the layout at the lodge.

Paver said evidence will show that Mpanza wore a balaclava to disguise his identity.

Nicky Rattray testified that she and her husband were in their bathroom when the gunman struck. David Rattray had been changing to go for a cycle. “I heard my housekeeper call to me … I went to the door of the bathroom and walked into a man with a gun.”

She said when she saw the gunman she stepped back and David saw what was happening.

“He went towards the man and then I heard shots. The man was still in the doorway between the bathroom and the bedroom. My husband walked forward and fell forward into the bedroom.”

Asked if she could identify the assailant, Nicky Rattray replied: “Yes, probably”.

She later described him as “young and short with quite a lot of curly hair”, but said she couldn’t recall what he wore. She would guess he was about 22 or 23 years old.

Rattray said she briefly went to David’s side and then straight back into the bathroom because she didn’t know where the man with the gun was, and she stayed there until staff members came to her aid.

She said they were married for 23 years and had three sons aged 22, 17 and 16 years.

Asked what effect David Rattray’s murder has had on her, she replied: “A devastating effect.

It rendered my children fatherless, myself husbandless and I now have to run the business alone.”

A receptionist, Nomthandazo Carol Zulu, said she saw the shadows of six people through the window. When she saw them clearly she noticed they all had guns.

Zulu said she was grabbed by a man wearing a balaclava who held a gun below her jaw and demanded money.

Zulu said she refused when he told her to cut the telephone wires. He threatened to shoot her.

He then asked where David was and told her to accompany them to David’s house. They encountered other staff members en route, who were also held at gunpoint.

At the house they encountered another employee, Prisca. A gunman placed a firearm to her neck and asked where David was. She said he was in the house. Prisca then entered the house with the gunman.

Zulu said later she heard David Rattray shout: “Don’t shoot me” and a gunshot. The person who had fired came outside.

“The one with the balaclava asked whether he had shot him and he responded he had struck him. The one holding me then said he should go back and finish him off.”

Zulu alleged the gunman returned to the house and she heard another shot go off.

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