A Durban lady who was shot dead in a “phony hijacking”, purportedly at the command of her significant other, had barely survived a comparative occurrence only a month sooner.
Shanaaz Sewnarain was still recovering from her injuries, with her arm in a sling, when “hijackers” jumped into the back of the car her husband Rajiv Sewnarain was driving and shot her three times at point-blank range. Rajiv was shot in the shoulder.
Rajiv, 51, has pleaded not guilty to the crime.
This is the second time he has been put on trial.
The first time, in 2010, just two weeks after Shanaaz was murdered, he pleaded guilty in the Durban Regional Court and was sentenced to life in prison.
He attempted to appeal both his conviction and sentence claiming that he was not mentally sound at the time, but this failed.
Claims of an affair
He then successfully appealed on a technicality that he had not been informed of his right to have assessors and the matter was referred to the Durban High Court for a fresh trial.
The State alleges that Rajiv was having an affair and hired someone to kill his wife.
In evidence before Judge Shyam Gyanda in the Durban High Court on Monday, investigating officer Viresh Panday – who worked for the provincial anti-hijacking task team at the time – said the couple reported an attempted hijacking just 100m from their house in November 2010.
On that occasion, only Shanaaz was shot. She spent about 10 days in hospital and was recuperating when Rajiv suggested they go to get pizza takeaways.
Because of her injury she had sat in the back of their hired red car.
According to a “victim” statement made by Rajiv after the incident, he claimed that while on their way home they had been boxed in by two vehicles. Two armed men had jumped in, one in the front and one in the back. They instructed him to drive. At some point on Folweni Road, one shot him in his shoulder.
“I slumped forward and the car slowed down. One of them pulled the handbrake up and they pushed me out and took off.”
Rajiv said a passerby assisted him and the police and ambulance were called.
Shanaaz’s body was found in their abandoned car.
Panday said when he got to the scene, he could see that it appeared to be “overkill for an ordinary hijacking case”.
“It was strange… hijackers usually focus on the driver of the vehicle, the person in control of it, not on someone sitting in the back wearing a sling and who couldn’t offer much resistance.”
When he heard of the previous “hijacking” he found that the pattern was similar. Only Shanaaz, who was not driving, had been targeted.
He and members of the team had identified CCTV cameras at private businesses on Folweni Road.
“We looked at a substantial portion, hours before and after the alleged incident, and could not see any of the three vehicles he mentioned in his statement.
“We also found a witness who said he saw an Indian man getting out of a completely different car, bleeding and that the police and ambulance arrived.
“This was the only incident on that road on that night. The paramedics confirmed it was the accused,” Panday said.
“We then realised he was blatantly lying to us.”
The trial has been set down for the rest of the week.