KZN man found guilty of murder after setting girlfriend alight

2018-11-06 13:11
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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A KwaDukuza man who claimed his girlfriend doused herself in petrol and set herself alight, has been convicted of her murder.

KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban Judge Esther Steyn this week rejected claims by Niresh Singh, 37, that his 27-year-old girlfriend - and mother of his child - Trisha Naidoo had wanted to commit suicide.

"These objective facts show that she was trying to protect herself and she was actually hiding in the corner of the toilet," the judge said.

Evidence during the trial, led by senior State advocate Cheryl Naidu, was that the couple had met "and fallen in love" when Naidoo was a teenager and Singh was married to another woman.

They had a stormy relationship and their arguments were often prompted by finances because Singh, who did part-time garden service work, made very little money.

Read: Woman dies after boyfriend allegedly sets her alight

On the evening of November 28, 2016, Naidoo had taken their seven-year-old son to her sister, Nikita Naidoo, who lived two doors away.

It was Nikita and her cousin Leevash Ramlakan who heard Naidoo’s screams and rushed to the house.

They testified that they banged on the door, but when no one answered, they had kicked it down. Singh was sitting on the couch in the lounge downstairs "just looking at them".

80% burns to her body

Nikita rushed upstairs and found her sister standing under a running shower. She was screaming in pain. Smoke was coming out of her hair and her body was "steaming". She had asked for ice.

The toilet door was off its hinges. There was a petrol container on the stairwell. At one stage, Singh had come into the bathroom and Naidoo had said to him: "Look what you have done to me."

Singh replied: "Tell her (Nikita) that you did it to yourself."

Lorraine Sewpersad, a nursing assistant at Stanger Hospital, who lived across the road from the couple, went to help that night.

She said she had taken Naidoo out the shower and cut the remains of her clothes off her, before accompanying her to the hospital - where she died two days later after suffering 80% burns to her body.

"At first, Trisha said she had done it to herself. But then she asked if the accused (Singh) was there. When I assured her that he was not, she said he had thrown petrol over her and then threw more under the door of the toilet and struck a match," Sewpersad said.

Naidoo also told a doctor in the emergency room that she had done it to herself.

However, medical evidence, and an examination of her injuries, showed that it was most likely that she was crouched down when the petrol was thrown at her.

'Objective facts show that she was trying to protect herself'

Police expert Colonel Marthinus Bekker, of the SAPS forensic science laboratory, said: "It was most likely she was in a defensive position, with her back against the wall."

Singh maintained that they had had a row that evening and that Naidoo had accused him of seeing his ex-wife.

"She went upstairs. She said she was in the toilet, and I sat on the top of the stairs waiting for her. I then heard a loud explosion; the door came off its hinges,” he said.

He claimed she had asked him for ice. He couldn’t find any, so he grabbed some popsicles and took them to her in the shower.

Judge Steyn rejected this version.

Also read: Man pours petrol on girlfriend and sets her alight while she was asleep

"The door to the house was locked and had to be broken into. The petrol was in the stairwell. There were petrol spills throughout the house. Two matchsticks were found at the toilet entrance.

"Her injuries show she protected areas of her body. The objective facts show that she was trying to protect herself, that she was hiding in the corner of the toilet," the judge said.

"Singh was not a good witness. His behaviour was not normal. He refused to open the door or get any help."

The evidence that Naidoo had claimed to have done it to herself needed to be evaluated in the context of the relationship. Naidoo had always protected Singh from getting into trouble, she said.

A date for sentencing has not yet been set.

Read more on:    durban  |  courts  |  crime

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