Papli Case: Accused’s other girlfriend tells of anguished phone calls

2009-03-17 00:00

The “other woman” in the life of Nivesh Doodla (26), who is charged with the murder of his late girlfriend Gail Papli, told the KZN High Court, Pietermaritzburg, yesterday she was at the centre of a row between the couple the night Papli was killed.

Lerusha Govender said that late on the night of February 10, 2008 — before midnight — she received an SMS from Papli stating: “Nivesh and you will pay for this. Kharma is a wonderful thing. You and Nivesh are a bunch of liars and cheaters. Enjoy life.”

At about 10 pm Papli telephoned her and asked if she had kissed Doodla, how many times and if Govender wanted to be with him.

Govender said she could hear Doodla shouting in the background trying to “cover up” and saying that it had happened only once.

“I could tell that Gail was very hurt and upset. I didn’t know how to answer her, and the call was cut.”

About 20 minutes later — before the SMS arrived — Govender said Doodla called her and told her he was going to tell Papli the truth because he wanted her to know everything. She could hear Papli crying in the background.

Govender told Judge Anton van Zyl and two assessors that she started dating Doodla around January 13 and that their relationship lasted only a few weeks.

She met Papli only once, on February 8, two days before her death.

Govender said that when Doodla got together with her he told her he had broken up with Papli, but that she was “still calling him”.

“I later found out that they were still together while he was with me,” she said.

Govender testified that at some point Papli called her to ask if she had “feelings” for Doodla and that was when she realised that they were “still a couple”.

She said she lied to Papli when she asked her then if she had kissed Doodla.

Under cross-examination by Doodla’s advocate, Yoga Moodley SC, as to why she lied about this, Govender said she sensed that the kiss was a source of great distress for Papli and she did not want to come between her and Doodla.

Govender disputed Doodla’s version in a statement handed to court that their relationship had started during December 2007 after Doodla broke up with Papli.

He alleges in his statement that he ended his relationship with Govender when Papli contacted him and he “welcomed” her back in mid-January last year.

Doodla said in the statement that he and Papli argued over Govender in the days leading up to Papli’s death.

On the day she died he said he and Papli visited the Sexpo in Durban. That night they had sex at Papli’s home, but afterwards Papli again questioned him about his relationship with Lerusha.

She became “very emotional, frenzied and took my cellphone and threw it against the door. She slapped me twice, pushed me away and was screaming at the top of her voice and being abusive towards me,” he said.

He said that at one point she sent SMSes on her cellphone. Their argument later turned to the fact that she had fallen pregnant and undergone an abortion in November 2007 and that was when “all hell broke loose”.

Doodla alleges Papli returned from the kitchen with a knife and, in a “state of hysteria”, came towards him and they grappled over the weapon.

Suddenly she released his hands and he saw she was bleeding from the neck. He said he did not know how she got injured.

He subsequently realised she was dead.

The chief medical officer, forensic pathologist for KZN Dr Gantcho Gantchev, testified that the injuries to Papli’s neck — a stab wound that penetrated the jugular vein and a scratch in the vicinity of her collar bone — “could be consistent with a struggle”.

He said the injures required “minimum force”.

A close friend of Papli, Jessica Moodley, testified that shortly before Papli’s death, her friend confided that she was “unsure” of her relationship with Doodla, but that she was “thinking of giving him another chance”.

She said that on the night Papli was killed she received an SMS from her stating: “Just found out that Nivesh kissed her twice on the day that we met and the day I met Toby”. She understood this to be a reference to Lerusha Govender.

Moodley said that was the last time she heard from Papli and that she knew nothing of a pregnancy.

The defence begins presenting their evidence today.

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