Man convicted, sentenced twice for wife's murder

2018-10-15 21:11
High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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A man who pleaded guilty to the murder of his wife but then claimed he was "forced" into confessing has been convicted of the crime for the second time and sentenced to life imprisonment again.

Durban High Court Judge Shyam Gyanda, who presided over Rajiv Sewnarain's "second trial", on Monday rejected his version that he had not been mentally sound and had been coerced into pleading guilty.

The judge said he accepted the case presented by senior State advocate Cheryl Naidu, who led the evidence of the magistrate who heard Sewnarain's confession and the prosecutor and private attorney who handled his guilty plea.

The judge said his confession – that in December 2010 Sewnarain, now 51, contracted the assistance of a person called "Boxer" to kill his wife Shanaaz in a "fake hijacking" for R30 000, R20 000 of which was paid and R10 000 was to follow – was the truth.

"The facts of the case called for an answer by him but he gave no evidence in challenge," Judge Gyanda said.

Sewnarain, who was said to be having an affair at the time, confessed to the crime just days after his 40-year-old wife was shot three times at point-blank range when the couple was returning from buying pizza at a shop on the Bluff.

It emerged during the trial that just one month prior to her death Shanaaz had survived another attempted hijacking and on that evening was still recovering from her injuries and was sitting in the back of the car on the way home.

First conviction overturned on technicality 

Evidence was that Sewnarain had come clean about his role in both matters to his relatives. He indicated to police and prosecutors that he wanted to plead guilty as quickly as possible. He wrote the plea in his own handwriting, signed it and his brother signed as a witness.

He then appeared before a Durban Regional Court magistrate who convicted him and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

But Sewnarain then appealed. When this was turned down, he took the case on review and the conviction was overturned on the technicality that he should have been informed of his right to have assessors at his trial.

When the trial started afresh before Judge Gyanda, he pleaded not guilty.

He did not request assessors, a fact noted by Judge Gyanda as "ironic".

"You have not shown one iota of remorse. It is time for you to man up and take responsibility for what you have done, which has also caused a rift in the family," the judge said in sentencing.

The judge said it would be taken into consideration in a parole application that Sewnarain had already served eight years of his original sentence.

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