'There was blood everywhere': Witness in Patel murder trial describes scene in graphic detail


A State witness in the trial of Limpopo businessman Rameez Patel described in detail the horrific scene of his wife's murder.

Patel is standing trial for the murder of his wife, Fatima Patel, who was brutally killed in April 10 2015 at the couple's house in Nirvana.

Two witnesses described the murder scene, saying the house was full of blood.

Dr Arnold Mamashela, a state pathologist, told the Limpopo High Court on Wednesday that Fatima's chances of survival were minimal due to brutality of the attack.

According to Mamashela’s post-mortem report, the deceased suffered multiple brutal wounds and had a fractured skull.

He said a gunshot wound to her head probably ultimately caused Fatima’s death. A 9.8mm gunshot wound on her right cheek above her lip had caused bleeding in her ears, in her eyes and her mouth, Mamashela said.

The court also heard that Patel was covered in his wife's blood and that he had bathed and changed into Muslim regalia after the shooting.

A security patrol officer in Nirvana, Gawie van Botha, was one of the first people to enter Patel’s house. Botha told the court that when he entered the house, he found Fatima bleeding in her husband’s arms.

"He was calm, he did not go crazy, he was just sitting holding her," said Botha.

The accused was full of blood and the deceased was still bleeding. Botha was told to go upstairs and investigate because there had been an intruder in the house.

Botha said he found no signs of forced entry, with no windows broken in the house.

"The whole kitchen was full of blood, from the sink, the curtain rail was on the floor with blood. On the fridge door, there was a bullet inside," he said.

The trial continues.

News24 PHOTO: Supplied PHOTO: Supplied  

The case so far

Rameez is accused of staging a burglary after shooting her but has maintained all along that he’s innocent. There were no visible signs of forced entry and nothing was stolen, says Westenberg police spokesman Captain Mohlaka Mashiane.

Rameez is their prime suspect, he adds. “Immediately after the shooting of his wife he took a bath. That’s something abnormal. You find your wife in a pool of blood and instead of calling the paramedics and the police you take a bath? We find that amazing.”

Mashiane says Rameez didn’t give a convincing answer about his whereabouts on the afternoon his wife was murdered. “He says he was just outside and ran inside the house when he heard the gunshot.”

Fatima also had scratches on her face, he says. And forensic evidence showed theattacker used a blunt object to hit her, which could have caused her death if she hadn’t been shot.

After several postponements of his bail application, Rameez was released on R250 000 bail in June. One of his bail conditions is he must report to the police station three times a day. The case resumed yesterday in the Limpopo High Court. In June 2015, YOU's Gabisile Ngcobo spoke to Fatima's devastated family, who were still reeling from her horrific death.

'She was tiny, she was all alone'

Fatima’s mom, Feroza Choonara (middle), and sisters Shaakirah Choonara (left) and Rubina Ghood. PHOTO: Papi Morake Fatima’s mom, Feroza Choonara (middle), and sisters Shaakirah
Choonara (left) and Rubina Ghood. PHOTO: Papi Morake

Every night at 9 pm she waits for the call from her daughter that used to come almost without fail. Sometimes the phone rings and her hopes soar – for a few seconds she thinks the past two months have just been a bad dream.

“I get a shock and think it’s a mistake and maybe it’s her,” Feroza Choonara says.

“I can’t wait to hear from her.” Feroza is still trying to come to terms with the death of her daughter, Fatima Patel, who was brutally killed on 10 April.

We’re speaking to Fatima’s family in the home of her sister Rubina Ghood (37) in Centurion, Gauteng, days after Rameez was released, and it’s the first time they’re talking about her death.

Feroza (60) is sitting at a table with two of her daughters, Rubina and Shaakirah Choonara (21). They’re trying to fathom why anyone would rob Fatima’s three young sons.

Fatima and the kids spent a few days at Rubina’s house in the week she died. It was school holidays and they had a great time, Rubina says. But Fatima cut her stay short by a day – she wanted to surprise Rameez by returning home early and to help her momin- law to prepare for an overseas trip.

“My last conversation with her was that Thursday she left,” Feroza says, indicating the place her daughter sat when she spoke her last words to her. Fatima had asked Feroza to come with her to Polokwane but she could not because she had a wedding to attend.

“Sometimes I feel if maybe I went with her it wouldn’t have happened,” a heartbroken Feroza says. “If maybe we left with her on Friday she would not be gone.”

Shaakirah received the call that shattered their happiness that Friday afternoon from one of Rameez’s cousins.

“She told me something had happened and Fati was gone,” Shaakirah says. “I burst into tears. Then I phoned my mom and she started crying.”

Feroza collapsed and they had to resuscitate her. When Rubina phoned Rameez, his uncle answered and said there had been a break-in and Fatima had been killed by a burglar.

They couldn’t believe how badly disfigured she was when they arrived in Polokwane just before midnight, Rubina says. Her skull and cheekbones had been shattered after she’d been shot in the face, her jaw had been dislocated and she’d been strangled.

“It was like something out of a horror movie.”

It’s hard to comprehend the violence she experienced, Rubina says. “She was tiny. She was all alone and probably screaming for help. She couldn’t fight – she wasn’t a fighter.”

Her voice breaks and she starts to cry. “And if she did fight it was for her kids because she knew she had a little baby waiting for her,” Shaakirah interjects. “

You don’t take a mom from three beautiful babies, let alone one who’s being breastfed,” Rubina says.

It was difficult to grasp Rameez’s arrest, she adds. “We spent so much time together. There wasn’t the slightest idea he could ever do something like this. It was a big shock and still is. We don’t know why it happened.

“I hope and pray he’s innocent for those three precious children.” As far as they know Fatima was happily married.

“Rameez was always willing to be with us as a family and never had any issues.” Of course, like every couple, they had ups and downs, Rubina adds. “A marriage isn’t a marriage if you don’t have a bit of a tiff.  But no one ever thought something like this would come of it.”

Soon before Fatima’s death she and Rameez attended a wedding in London and took the kids to Legoland.

Rameez often showered her with gifts such as flowers, designer bags and shoes, and overseas trips. She had everything her heart desired, her sisters say.

The couple met through a mutual friend and married in an intimate wedding after a year of dating about nine years ago. They settled in Polokwane where Rameez owns a string of supermarkets and Fatima became a stay-at-home mom.

“She loved everything about him – the way he’d treat her, the way he was with her,” Rubina says. “He swept her off her feet.”

She can’t recall seeing her sister being unhappy and it haunts her that she might have missed any signs. “Was I not listening closely enough to her? Did she try to reach out? I don’t know – I’ve always seen happiness. “

We want the person who did this to be found. We just want justice for our sister.”

Fatima's children were her world and she spent most of her time with them.

“[Her baby] used to look at his mother with goo-goo eyes,” Rubina says. “Her kids loved her to bits.”

The boys, who are now with Rameez’s parents, know their mother is “living in God’s house”.

The family tear up every time they see the kids, Rubina says. They hope they can spend the winter school holiday with them.

“It’s all we have left of her. I think we need them more than they need us.”

The kids are okay but Fatima’s family were heartbroken when the youngest son recently turned to Shaakirah after hearing her voice.

“Shaakirah’s voice sounds like Fatima’s,” Rubina says. “She walked in and said, ‘Where’s my baby?’ He pushed his mouth against Shaakirah’s breast because he thought it was his mom. The eldest understands and wants to be stronger for the younger ones. He’s matured overnight.”

There was still so much Fatima wanted to do, the sisters say. Her dream was to own a home with a yard big enough for a stable for her white Arabian horse, Chai, and a playground for the kids.

“She didn’t have a daughter and Chai was her little girl. She’d make us cut carrots so it can be easy for her to chew.” All they want now is for justice to be served, Rubina says.

“Our lives will never be the same without her. The family are praying the perpetrator will be found. God is so great and we have no doubt he’ll bring us the answers. That’s what we’re praying for. We can’t take the law into our hands.”

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