Sewnarain: judgment reserved

2012-08-03 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG high court judges have reserved their judgment in an application by Durban man Rajiv Sewnarain (43), who claims he wrongly pleaded guilty to killing his wife, Shanaaz, in a staged hijacking in December 2010.

In his submissions before Judge Kevin Swain and Judge Jaqui Henriques yesterday, Sewnarain’s advocate, Yoga Moodley, said his client was not seeking to “escape” the murder charge, but only to have a fair trial. “We are not saying that the court must make the case go away. We say he must be given his day in court. The state can recharge him,” said Moodley.

He submitted that Sewnarain was wrongly convicted of murdering his wife because he was not in his sound and sober senses when he pleaded guilty before regional court magistrate Sharon Marks to the murder, and when he made a confession to another magistrate a day earlier.

According to psychologists, Sewnarain was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and “survivor guilt” at the time because he had been unable to save his wife, even though she had saved his life on a previous occasion.

Other issues raised in the review application are allegations that Sewnarain was on medication which he said made him “drowsy”; that he was not represented by the attorney of his choice at the trial; and that he alleges he was coerced into confessing after being assaulted and intimidated by the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Vinesh Panday.

The prosecution has questioned the findings of the medical experts, whose reports were based on what Sewnarain himself told them some eight months after he pleaded guilty.

The attorney who represented him at the trial and the presiding magistrate both expressed the view that he was in his sound and sober senses when he pleaded guilty.


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