Shattered family of murdered Fatima Patel wants answers

Rameez Patel. (Marietie Louw-Carstens, Netwerk24)
Rameez Patel. (Marietie Louw-Carstens, Netwerk24)

Polokwane businessman who is accused of killing his wife breaks down in court during bail hearing, but her family ­believes he is not remorseful and not feeling any pain

Her family had always believed she was happily married. But then she was found battered, lying in a pool of blood.

Now Farook Choonara from Laudium, near Pretoria, and his family are questioning everything they believed about Fatima Patel (28) and her husband, Rameez (29), who has been arrested for her murder.

“As far as we knew, Fatima and Rameez were happy,” he said from his home this weekend. “When she visited me over the Easter weekend, I asked her if she was happy, and she said yes.”

But Choonara said something had felt wrong.

“I somehow sensed that she was not telling the truth because her eyes told a different story. She promised to visit me on Wednesday and I was hoping to have a talk with her in the hope that she would open up.”

He never saw her alive again.

Fatima did not arrive for the visit, and Choonara assumed she had returned to Polokwane.

Two days later, he was told she was dead.

Now her shattered family is struggling to come to terms with her death ... and her husband’s alleged role in it.

“Though the court case will probably reveal gory details about her death and the events leading to it, we want to hear everything. We need to know why our lovely Fatima had to die in this way,” Choonara said.

He said the family was stunned by the revelations that emerged during Rameez’s bail hearing this week.

Rameez was arrested on April 16 after Fatima was found dead at the couple’s rented apartment in Nirvana, Polokwane, on April 10.

Her skull and cheekbones had been shattered, and her jaw was dislocated. Rameez told police she had been shot during a house robbery.

However, he was arrested after police found inconsistencies in his story, including that there was no evidence of forced entry, that Rameez had gone to his uncle’s house to wash off the blood after finding his wife, had changed clothes three times that day and refused to hand over some of the clothes he was wearing, investigating officer Constable David Nkuna testified in court.

But it was Nkuna’s testimony that Rameez had a history of violence that shocked Choonara most.

In the Polokwane Magistrates’ Court this week Nkuna said Rameez was implicated in two previous murder cases – one involving a teenage boy who broke into his home and another involving an Ethiopian man – but he was never tried, because one of the cases was withdrawn and the other was treated as mob justice.

The court also heard that Rameez, who owns several wholesale outlets, was a professional cage fighter.

“What kind of man enjoys beating up people until they bleed?” Choonara asked. “In cage fighting, you beat up people to hurt them.”

He said all the family wanted was answers ... and that they did not believe Rameez was remorseful when he broke down in court this week, causing proceedings to be adjourned.

“He is not feeling any pain at all. When this matter was brought to court, he would maintain his composure and greet his friends and family with a smile. Now that he has realised bail is being opposed, he is pulling all these stunts to evoke sympathy,” he said.

Choonara said he was distressed about the couple’s three young children, aged eight, four, and four months, who were in the care of Rameez’s mother.

Choonara said that, although the motive was still unknown, he had heard rumours that Rameez was having an affair with a married woman.

“We are told Fatima found out about the affair and confronted the woman last year, and also told the woman’s husband, who apparently initiated a divorce.

“We don’t know how true this is because Fatima never discussed this with any of her family members.”

The bail hearing continues on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page in support of Rameez has been set up.

On the page, one poster said he had known the family and had done business with Rameez for about six years. He wrote on the page, where he also posted pictures of the couple: “Rameez loved Fatima like no other. Even if you ask him today, he will tell you what she was wearing and what she ordered on their first date.”

The page, which had 186 likes yesterday, revealed: “Rameez married Fatima against the wishes of his family – he stood up for her even when the world seemed to have gone against him. If that is not love, then what is?”

It also revealed that Rameez was with his wife when she delivered their children – and he had cut their umbilical cords.

“Rameez gave Fatima every luxury he could afford. He took her on holidays; he sent her on trips abroad when he was too busy to go himself. Anyone who knew Fatima would know how crazy she was over shoes and handbags. And anyone who has been to their house could tell you how many pairs of shoes and how many handbags she owned. Rameez would buy her the things that made her happy, even if he thought it was silly. If that is not love, then what is?” the post continued.

It said the couple had spent their last Eid with Fatima’s family in Pretoria “just because Fatima wanted to”.

“He treated her sisters like his own and respected her mother like his own. People can judge all they want, but true love is what existed between Rameez and Fatima.”

In an interview with City Press, a close friend, who asked not to be named, insisted Rameez could not have murdered Fatima.

“Arguments between couples are a normal thing, but Fatima was badly assaulted, like an animal did it, and that cannot be Rameez.

“They’re saying it’s him because he is a cage fighter and I’m saying I am a former cage fighter and we’re not monsters just because of the sport, which is like any other.

“I know just how much he loved his wife. Rameez is not a monster. He spoilt Fatima.”

He said Rameez had been inconsolable when he saw him after the murder.

“He is totally broken and I know why – he loved his wife very much.

“He constantly wiped tears from his face and you could tell just how shattered he was.”

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