Sewnarain experts ‘selective’

2012-07-31 00:00

DURBAN man Rajiv Sewnarain (43), who now claims he was not in his sound and sober senses when he pleaded guilty to murdering his wife in 2010, had told medical experts “blatant lies” to advance his case, the state has submitted.

State advocate Attie Truter and defence advocate Yoga Moodley SC, for Sewnarain, began argument in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday in Sewnarain’s application for a review of his trial and guilty plea.

Sewnarain is seeking a fresh trial on grounds that when he pleaded guilty to killing his wife, Shanaaz, shortly after her murder in December 2010, he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and “survivor guilt”.

He further maintains he was subjected to assaults and intimidation by the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Vinesh Panday, and was coerced into confessing and pleading guilty.

He said his attorney, Devin Moodley, was “foisted” on him.

He said he agreed to make a confession to a magistrate and later plead guilty while in a state of “indifference” induced by grief and guilt that he had been unable to protect and save his wife, as she had previously saved him.

Mother of two Shanaaz Sewnarain was killed during a hijacking incident on December 10, 2010, that was allegedly staged.

She had survived an attack a few weeks earlier in November, when she was shot five times.

Sewnarain was sentenced to life imprisonment by Durban Regional Court magistrate Sharon Marks after pleading guilty on December 23 to his wife’s murder. He told the court he had arranged with a hitman to jump into their vehicle at a pre-arranged place.

To bolster his subsequent hijacking claim, he was also shot in the shoulder and pushed out of the car by the killer.

However, he now alleges that he was told what to say by Warrant Officer Panday and says he is in fact innocent.

In his submissions before court on behalf of the state, Truter yesterday questioned the findings of medical experts consulted by the defence — Professor Lourens Schlebusch, Dr Prema Laban and Dr Brenda Bosch.

He said their assessments of Sewnarain were based on what he had told them.

“They have not consulted the most important persons who could have provided important information to them,” he said.

Truter submitted that the experts’ acceptance of Sewnarain’s “patchy recollection” as the absolute truth was “entirely subjective and selective”.

None of the experts had been mandated to approach the case objectively by consulting the people who had interacted with him during his confession [to magistrate Anita Govender] and his subsequent guilty plea before Marks, he said.

Argument will continue today.

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