Details differ in Soni trial

2017-08-18 13:45
Murder accused Rajivee Soni.

Murder accused Rajivee Soni. (File)

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The brother-in-law of murder accused Rajivee Soni came under fire on Wednesday with the state accusing him of fabricating information and “rehearsing” his evidence.

Devan Panday, who is married to Soni’s eldest sister Shanitha, was called as a witness by the defence on Wednesday at the Pietermaritzburg high court.

Panday was asked by defence advocate Jimmy Howse to relay the details of what occurred during the meeting where slain doctor Bhavish Sewram and Soni’s wife Kerusha were allegedly assaulted by Sewram’s mother-in-law and wife.

Panday told the court that he arranged the meeting with Sewram’s mother-in-law, Pritha Singh in January 2012.

During cross-examination, state Advocate Johan du Toit referred to an affidavit signed by Panday and his wife in which they spoke about the assault on the day.

In the affidavit, which was submitted for another case between Kerusha and Soni, some details of the assault differed from Panday’s evidence in court.

In his evidence in court, Panday said when Sewram and his wife Yuvadia arrived at Singh’s house, Yuvadia greeted Kerusha and gave her a hug.

“Pritha explained to Yuvadia about the phone [the secret BlackBerry given to Kerusha by Sewram] and when Yuvadia called Bhavish’s phone from that BlackBerry, the name Koogen Naidoo came up.

“She then checked the text messages from ‘Koogen Naidoo’ ... and I could see Yuvadia was hurt and surprised,” he said.

In his evidence in chief, Panday said that Yuvadia slapped Kerusha and also assaulted her husband. He said that when Sewram tried to stop his wife from assaulting him, Singh began assaulting him and punched him on the side of his head.

“Pritha made a comment at that point saying that ‘Bullets will fly and I will just ask how did this happen?’,” he said.

But in the affidavit he signed with his wife, Panday said that Yuvadia “kicked, slapped and punched” Kerusha and her nose was bleeding. Du Toit asked Panday why he did not intervene in such a serious assault but Panday said he “did nothing”.

The affidavit, however, stated that Soni, Shanitha and Panday tried to intervene.

Panday told the court that Singh asked her husband, Dr Prakash Singh, to fetch a whip from the garage and she started whipping Sewram. However, in his affidavit he said that Singh, herself, fetched the whip.

“I did read the statement and there were some issues but I couldn’t change anything as we needed to submit this for an urgent application so I had to sign it. I am fully aware that there are some contradictions,” Panday eventually said after cross-examination by Du Toit.

“I put it to you that yours and Soni’s version of this incident is total fabrication,” said Du Toit but Panday stood his ground, saying it was the truth.

Panday said that on their way home from Singh’s house, he advised Kerusha to open a charge of assault but Kerusha refused, saying she “owes this much to Yuvadia”.

He said they decided to take Kerusha to her cousin, former police spokesperson Joey Jeevan’s house to relay the details of assault as Kerusha felt more comfortable talking to her family member. He said they discussed the matter and left.

Howse also asked Panday about the day he arrived at Soni’s house where state witness Sugen Naidoo allegedly demanded R20 000 from Soni. Panday said since Soni did not have enough cash on him, he gave Naidoo R10 000 of his money.

“Did you also not think of laying a charge against Sugen for theft or extortion since it was your R10 000?” asked Du Toit. Panday said he only assisted Soni with the money “which was my only crime in all of this”, adding that he believed it was Soni’s decision to report it.

Earlier in court proceedings, Soni’s business accountant Rodney Laban was called to the stand to confirm that no large amount of money was ever withdrawn from his business accounts. This was in relation to the alleged R100 000 Brian Treasurer said Soni paid for the murder of Sewram.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  soni murder trial

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