City businessman nailed for murder

2018-09-20 15:45
Convicted murderer Rajivee Soni reaches up to a friend in the gallery as he walks down to the holding cells at the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday.

Convicted murderer Rajivee Soni reaches up to a friend in the gallery as he walks down to the holding cells at the Pietermaritzburg high court on Wednesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Tears of joy, relief and sadness greeted businessman Rajivee Soni being finally nailed down for killing Dr Bhavish Sewram after a marathon trial.

Wednesday’s verdict in the Pietermaritzburg high court was announced in a courtroom packed with both Soni’s and Sewram’s family members.

Also read: Has his luck run out?

Because the judgment is said to run to hundreds of pages, Judge Jacqueline Henriques, sitting with assessor Gerhard Barnard, succinctly summarised the state’s evidence and Soni’s defence.

She concluded that the evidence against Soni was overwhelming. The judge said that after all the contradictions, probabilities and improbabilities were taken into account, Soni’s version was demonstrably false.

Judge Henriques convicted Soni on all six counts he was charged with, the main count being the murder of Sewram, who was shot outside his Chota Motala Road surgery on May 13, 2013 by a hired killer, Sabelo Dlamini.

Also involved in the plot were policeman Brian Treasurer and Mfaniseni Nxumalo.

All three have already been jailed, but Treasurer died in prison early this year.

After the verdict was announced, the court adjourned, giving family members an opportunity to share their emotions and thoughts.

Unlike his previous court appearances when he exuded confidence and high spirits, Soni sat downcast in the dock. The dismay he felt was visible on his face.

Soni’s advocate, Jimmy Howse, SC, urged the judge to extend the businessman’s R100 000 bail or to increase it. Howse said Soni had abided by his bail conditions and argued that he would continue to do so.

He added that Soni was not a flight risk and is the primary caregiver of his 11-year-old daughter, of whom he has custody.

State advocate Johan du Toit, however, argued against bail.

He said that when Soni was “locked” up after his arrest, he was terrified.

“He [Soni] does not want to go into a cell. He is terrified,” said Du Toit.

He added that Soni previously wanted to go to Swaziland on business. This showed he had connections outside the country and border control was not very strict.

He said the murder was “very serious” and that once Soni was convicted, things changed dramatically.

Du Toit reiterated that Soni was “very afraid of going to prison”.

“I have spoken to Mrs Soni [his ex-wife] and she is more than happy to take care of both the children,” he said.

Judge Henriques said she did not believe it was in the interest of justice to extend Soni’s bail.

Sentencing was postponed to Friday while the defence studies the judgment.

Sewram’s widow, Yuvadia, struggled to contain her tears.

“The past five years have been both an emotional rollercoaster where I have had to pick up the pieces and bring up my two innocent daughters [aged three and four years old at the time of the doctor’s death],” she said.

Wife of Dr Bhavish Sewram, Yuvadia Sewram, celebrates with her mother-in-law, Nalini Sewram, in the high court after Rajivee Soni was convicted of Sewram's murder on Wednesday.

She said the children were left without a “wonderful and amazing father”.

“The family speaks about him all the time,” she said.

Being an attorney, Yuvadia said she knew Soni was guilty when she heard the evidence in the case.

“I now have a sense of relief … peace. Finally my husband is dancing in heaven. Finally I can move on and get closure,” she said.

Yuvadia added that Soni used to act as if nothing had happened.

Dr Bhavish Sewram.

She thanked state advocate Du Toit and the investigating team, headed by Lenny Naidoo and Clifford Marion, for the sterling work they did.

She said that what hurt her the most was that Soni’s children still had him but her children no longer have a father.

The doctor’s father, Parmanand Sewram, who has also been waiting for years for justice to take its course, said: “We welcome the verdict and hope that an appropriate sentence will be imposed.”

Rajivee Soni has been found:

GUILTY

1. Murder of doctor Bhavish Sewram on May 13, 2013.

GUILTY

2. Defeating or
obstructing the course of justice on February 13, 2012 by getting Mariamma Kisten to lay a
false charge of
sexual assault against Sewram.

GUILTY

3. Defeating or
obstructing the course of justice on February 21, 2012
by laying a false complaint of assault against Sewram.

GUILTY

4. Defeating or
obstructing the course of justice on August 21, 2012
by having a false complaint of sexual assault laid by
Sonali Sookraj Khan against Sewram.

GUILTY

5. Conspiracy to murder in 2012 by getting people to shoot Sewram with
a high-powered paintball gun.

GUILTY

6. Conspiracy to murder the doctor
in February 2013.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  soni murder trial

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