SMSes exchanged before brutal death

2010-06-02 00:00

AT 8 am on the day she was brutally murdered in a toilet at Ganie’s Corner Flats in East Street last February, mother of two Fiona Khader and her Pakistani lover, Abdul Khan, exchanged SMSes declaring their love for each other.

An hour later, she failed to respond to further messages, the Pietermaritzburg High Court heard yesterday.

This evidence was led before Judge Achmat Jappie and an assessor at the trial of Khader’s mother-in-law, Romila Singh (53), with whom Khader and her children lived in Beatrice Street, Durban.

Photographs of the crime scene show the body of the victim lying on the ground with her head in the bowl of a toilet. Stab wounds are visible on her neck and body.

According to the indictment, Kha­der sustained a fatal wound to her neck and two stab wounds to her abdomen. The hyoid bone in her neck was broken.

The state alleges that Singh did not approve of Khader’s relationship with Khan, and was disheartened on realising that her son, Riaz, and Khader were to get a Muslim divorce and that she would lose her grandchildren. It is alleged that she approached an assailant to help her kill her daughter-in-law before the couple could divorce.

Slightly built, grey-haired Singh pleaded not guilty yesterday and her attorney, Kelvin Singh, read a statement signed by Singh in which she admits that she accompanied Khader to Ganie’s Corner Flats on the morning in question, but denies that she murdered her.

Singh said Khader asked her to accompany her to Pietermaritzburg from Durban to “assist her with some cellular phones”. Khan drove them to Pietermaritzburg. At the flats they found the lift out of order and had to use the stairs.

“We had to go to the sixth floor of the building. I went up the first flight of stairs. I began to feel pain in my body. As a result, I told the deceased [Khader] to carry on without me. I informed her that I will wait for her at the entrance to the building. She continued to go up the flight of stairs while I waited for her,” Singh said.

Singh said she waited for about 20 minutes and then, as Khader had not returned, she went to the car and told Khan.

“He transported me to Durban and informed me that he would pick up the deceased [Khader] later in the day,” she said.

However, in his testimony yesterday, Khan denied having driven Khader and Singh to Pietermaritzburg and said he did not even have a car or a driver’s licence at the time. He said Khader never told him about any plans to go to Pietermaritzburg.

Early that morning, Khan said, Khader bathed and fed her two children and took them to school as usual. On his way to work in a shop, he saw her returning and spoke to her. She also spoke to a friend before entering her mother-in-law’s flat. He never saw her again, but at 8 am he sent her an SMS saying: “I love you”.

“She responded saying, ‘I also love you’,” he testified.

From 9 am to about midday he kept on sending SMSes, but received no reply and became worried. He telephoned the flat and Singh answered. She told him Khader had never returned after taking the children to school, he said.

Khan testified that he and Khader met when he started boarding at Singh’s flat in about May 2008. At the time she was still married under Muslim rites to Singh’s son, Riaz, but her husband had moved out and was living with his girlfriend. Khan alleged that he never came to see Khader or his children.

Khan told the court about an incident in December 2008 when Khader left her mother-in-law’s home with her children, allegedly in fear of her life, and he helped her get to Pretoria.

He said Singh and her “whole family” took him to a flat in Overport where they all assaulted him.

“Romila hit me a lot,” he said.

“She slapped me quite often, and punched me quite often … She had in her possession a sjambok, but she didn’t use the sjambok,” he said.

He said he bled from his nose and ears after six hours of assaults. He eventually told them where Khader was on condition that they did not “touch her”. He fetched her and brought her home.

Khan said that in the course of that incident, Khader’s husband had given him the “okay” to marry her and agreed to go through a Muslim divorce. However, the divorce never took place.

The case is proceeding.

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