Singh sentenced to 20 years’ jail

2010-06-10 00:00

DURBAN grandmother Romila Singh (57) was jailed for 20 years yesterday for the murder of her daughter-in-law, Fiona Khader (27), whom she had led to her death like an “animal to slaughter”.

Khader was strangled and her throat was stabbed and slit in the toilet of Ganies Corner flats by a hired hitman identified by Singh only as “Simon” while she remained out of sight on a flight of stairs nearby.

In evidence yesterday, Singh (who has five children and six grandchildren) told Judge Achmat Jappie and two assessors that she had decided to have Khader killed because her daughter-in-law made her “very angry”.

She alleged that Khader had assaulted her on various occasions with a stick during arguments relating to her treatment of her children, and alleged that Khader used to assault her sons (Singh’s two grandsons, then five and seven years old) with a sjambok.

She also testified that Khader once tried to poison her with Rattex.

She said she is now sorry for what she did and that is why she decided to “come clean” with the court. She offered an apology to Khader’s family.

State advocate Attie Truter urged the court to reject Singh’s attempt to paint a picture of Khader as a “cruel mother” and a bad person, and to sentence Singh to life imprisonment.

Truter submitted that despite her “old and fragile” appearance, she is a danger to society, adding that her sudden change of heart and admission of guilt this week was “self-serving” and not a genuine expression of remorse.

Truter pointed out that Singh’s change of heart occurred after she had listened to the state’s evidence and realised that there was no point in maintaining her lies.

But Judge Jappie said although there was truth in Truter’s arguments, it was not his wish that Singh should spend the remainder of her days in prison — and he did not believe this would be in the interests of justice. If she were sentenced to life imprisonment it is unlikely she would “ever see the outside of a prison again”.

He said at her age, by the time she has served her term of imprisonment, he did not believe she would pose a danger to society.

At the same time, the judge said Khader’s murder was planned and carried out in a meticulous, callous and cold-blooded manner.

“Although you stand before me an ageing grandmother, and if I may say so, cut a rather sad and pathetic figure, one thing is certain, this murder was carefully planned and carried out with deadly effect.”

He said it was hard to imagine a more undignified death than that of Khader who was strangled, had her throat cut and was left lying on the floor, her head hanging inside an “Eastern-type” toilet bowl in Ganies flats on February 24 last year.

Singh admitted this week that she lured Khader to accompany her and the killer to Pietermaritzburg by taxi. She did not give her a reason for going there, she said yesterday.

She told the court that the hired killer was a man who was also known to Khader. Singh testified that she knows where he “hangs out” and will assist police to trace him.

In her statement to the court on Tuesday, Singh claimed that she had only met the man once when she approached him to carry out the murder.

FIONA Khader’s mother, Rita, wept yesterday as she spoke of Fiona who was her only child and her “whole life”.

She urged the newspaper to highlight the “wonderful work” done by investigating officer Swami Pillay and his team on the case.

Khader’s father Rashid later expressed unhappiness with Singh’s sentence and said she deserved to spend the rest of her life in prison for what she did.

He added that Singh had “lied” in court and he said Khader “never laid a hand” on her children.

Members of Singh’s family (her son Anesh, his wife Sunitha and daughter Safira Khan) rallied round the bereaved couple yesterday and pledged their support to them and to Khader’s children. They said the whole family is “hurting” from what has happened. “We are torn between two people we love. We loved Fiona, she was like a sister,” said Safira Khan, who gave evidence for the state against her mother. She added that although they did not approve of what she had done, the family will stand by Singh financially and assist her with her health problems while she is in prison.


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