Rajcoomar ‘no manipulator’

2010-10-27 00:00

CLINICAL psychologist Professor Lourens Schlebusch detected symptoms of “battered woman syndrome” and post-traumatic stress disorder in Kalisha Rajcoomar (23), the high court in Pietermaritzburg heard yesterday.

Schlebusch told Judge Piet Koen he had carried out a battery of psychological tests, perused numerous documents — including statements in which Rajcoomar and her husband, Amith Sewkarran, confessed to the murder of her former lover, Sandesh Poorun — and interviewed Rajcoomar and her mother in an effort to establish her mental state in relation to the murder.

He concluded that her behaviour had been out of character.

He also ruled out the possibility that she was “malingering” or faking her symptoms.

He described her as “highly intelligent” and said he did not believe she was a risk to society.

He said Rajcoomar had suffered an inordinate build-up of stress prior to the murder, “akin to abused woman syndrome”, which could overlap with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She had been treated for depression before the incident and afterwards was suicidal.

Schlebusch said Rajcoomar, as well as her family, had been subjected to “ violence, abuse and stalking by Poorun”.

He believed she felt “trapped” by Poorun. She had even obtained protection orders against him which he breached.

”She expressed sincere remorse and was experiencing guilt for her actions,” he said.

She suffered from recurrent “flashbacks”, anxiety and stress, and intense distressing thoughts associated with what happened.

He said that while growing up Rajcoomar had no problems, and was a school prefect.

He believed the fact she and her family were abandoned by her biological father when she was very young had affected her trust in male relationships.

It also resulted in an “overdependence” on people with whom she became involved, and a desire to protect her children from abandonment by their father.

Advocate Auret van Heerden, for Sewkarran, asked Schlebusch whether he considered that Rajcoomar might be a “master manipulator” who had manipulated both Sewkarran and Poorun, but Schlebusch said he found nothing to substantiate this.

Under cross-examination by state advocate Gert Nel, Schlebusch said he was unable to state which of the two accused is “telling the truth”.

In their conflicting confessions, he added, each tried to blame the other.

He said he accepted there could be an “element of manipulation” by Rajcoomar, but said this did not affect his findings.

Nel suggested to Schlebusch that Rajcoomar, unlike other abused women, had not been “trapped” in her relationship with Poorun.

The did not live together, he had no physical control over her and she was not financially dependent on him, he added.

There was also no evidence of extreme violence or injury to her and she had “fought back”.

Their “on-off” relationship showed she could leave him.

Rajcoomar is expected to give evidence today in mitigation of sentence.

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