Emotions run high in court

2015-09-08 10:03


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THE family of runner Neil Robinson, who was killed while jogging in February 2013, and the student who drove the car that killed him, all wept in the Pietermaritzburg regional court yesterday.

Durban University of Technology (DUT) student Zandisile Ndaba, who was 21 years old at the time, pleaded guilty to culpable homicide in March last year and is due to be sentenced by magistrate Corrie Greyling on September 18.

In his plea last year, Ndaba explained that he had fallen asleep at the wheel, and then swerved sharply to avoid an oncoming vehicle.

It was then that he had struck Robinson (60).

Ndaba said he had had only one hour of sleep the previous night, having attended a wake for his grandmother.

He was running errands that morning, ahead of the funeral, when the accident happened.

Yesterday the court heard testimony about the impact of the accountant’s death from his partner, Lynn-Rae van den Berg, and sister Sharon O’Hara, and was also handed victim impact statements from others close to him.

Tears flowed as the women described their loss to the court, resulting in both Ndaba and the court interpreter also becoming emotional.

Van den Berg said her “world ended” the day Robinson died.

“Yes, I am still living, but in an instant my perfect, lovely life was shattered with the death of my partner and best friend, Neil,” she said. “Since Neil’s death I am just getting by, but not enjoying life the way we had. Neil used to make me laugh so much and feel so happy. I now feel trapped in the middle of nowhere in life, with no sense of purpose. My life was cut in half with the loss of the person I love.

“The horrific way in which my loving, gentle Neil died, is also something I can’t put out of my mind and the image of the way I saw Neil lifeless that day takes over my thoughts at any time. I know it is not an image that will ever fade or become less horrific.”

Van den Berg said she used to run with Robinson, which made her feel good, but she is now “really scared” on the roads, even while driving.

“It sometimes feels as though the vehicles are coming right at me. When at home, the sound of cars speeding past on the road scares me,” she added.

Robinson’s sister, O’Hara, described her late brother as “easy going” and gentle, and said he had always encouraged and looked after her, even as adults. “He always had a way of making me feel so strong about myself and what I could achieve.”

Now she feels “so weak” and has days when she feels she is falling apart.

She, her brother and Van den Berg used to bump into one another regularly at road races and “joked about”.

“We miss that red, sweaty face and laughter. Somehow my drive to be out there running is now a continual battle.”

O’Hara said since the accident she has days of being extremely irritable, unenthusiastic and has withdrawn from various hobbies and interests, including their running club organising committee.

She said her father’s health had declined after her brother died.

The court heard from Correctional Services court assessor Melissa Hack and social worker M.N. Ngcobo that Ndaba was also traumatised by the accident.

Hack said Ndaba had undergone counselling and was admitted to a rehabilitation centre because he had increasingly used dagga and alcohol to cope after the accident.

He reported experiencing a sleep disorder and recurring images of the accident.

Ngcobo said Ndaba described himself to her as a “sad person, full of stress and huge trauma due to the accident”, and reported he was deeply remorseful.

The defence is seeking a wholly suspended sentence or correctional supervision for Ndaba.

Hack and Ngcobo agreed he would be a suitable candidate.

However, Hack added it should be left to the court to decide on a suitable sentence as there were aggravating factors.

She said both Van den Berg and O’Hara favoured a sentence of correctional supervision which involves part of the sentence being served in prison

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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