Video a lie, says defence

2015-11-04 09:50

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Pietermaritzburg - The man who alleges businessman Rajivee Soni hired him to murder doctor Bhavish Sewram in 2013, says he ­videoed Soni on his cellphone to have “proof” that Soni indeed hired him to kill the doctor.

Professor Sithebe, a former security company manager, remained under cross examination for several hours yesterday during a “trial within a trial” in which the defence is challenging the authenticity and admissibility of the video.

While Sithebe maintains that the recording was made on February 20, 2013, while he travelled with Soni in the vicinity of the doctor’s surgery, the businessman’s lawyer, Naren Sangham, suggested to him that this was not when the video was made.

Sangham suggested to Sithebe that the only “logical explanation” why he had not mentioned the video in his initial police statement made on March 14, 2013 (concerning the alleged conspiracy by Soni to kill Sewram) was “because it was only made at a later stage”.

But Sithebe said his reason for not disclosing the existence of the video to police at that stage was because he did not trust the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Yoga Naidoo, at first because he was an Indian person.

“I didn’t know if he was one of Soni’s contacts, since I have mentioned that Soni was a well-connected person and I did not know if he had sent someone to gather information from me,” said Sithebe.

According to Sithebe, he pawned his cellphone on May 7, 2013, after first sending a copy of the video recording to his fiancée’s phone.

He testified that he removed his SIM card but left the memory card in the phone.

When the investigating officers retrieved the phone from the pawnbroker on May 17, 2013, he turned the phone on in the parking lot and showed police the video clip featuring Soni.

The police thereafter took possession of the cellphone.

The defence has told the court it does not accept that the phone (and video) were not tampered with.

Sithebe agreed under cross examination that there is “absolutely no reference” to Dr Sewram on the video clip, or any specific mention of a plan to kill the doctor.

He said the recorded conversation concerned the fact that he had told Soni the doctor had “already been shot”.

Soni wanted him to call the Sewram’s surgery to see if the doctor was there, because he did not believe he had been shot, said Sithebe.

He denied lying to the court, and commented at one point that “Soni knows deep in his heart what the truth is”.

It was suggested to Sithebe by Sangham that cellphone records detailing numerous phone calls he made to both Soni and Sewram on February 20, 2013, were “more indicative of a conspiracy between Sithebe and Sewram to harm Soni” than the other way around.

Sangham said this is because Sithebe spoke for much longer to Sewram than he did to Soni.

He also questioned Sithebe about a call made after 7 pm one night to Soni, which Sithebe said was to report a burglary at Soni’s Mkondeni business premises.

The defence maintains Soni refused Sithebe’s request that he should go to the premises because he suspected he could be harmed.

But Sithebe told the court he had “no need to kill Soni”.

He added that if he had wanted to kill Soni, it would have been easy to do so since he was often “close” to Soni.

The case is proceeding.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  murder  |  crime  |  court  |  soni

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