Triple murder accused Rajan Kandasamy, flanked by six police officers as he appeared in court, revealed his likely defence in the case of the killing of his wife and two teenage children - insanity.
The murders, over the weekend of December 28 and 29, have rocked Durban and there are fears Kandasamy’s life could be in danger from members of the Chatsworth community.
At the Chatsworth Magistrate’s Court on Friday, lawyer Siven Samuel, who has been retained by Kandasamy’s family to represent him, asked for Kandasamy to be sent for a mental assessment.
It is alleged that Kandasamy, 44, beat his wife Mala, 41, an admin clerk at an engineering firm, daughter Melarisa, 18, and son Megandren, 17, to death with a gada - a traditional Indian mace carried by the Hindu god Hanuman - at their home.
He then handed himself over to police, apparently after being urged to do so by his family, on New Year’s Eve.
In an intriguing legal twist, Samuel argued in court that because Kandasamy had allegedly made a confession to police, there were grounds for an assessment of his mental state.
“We’d like to have the district surgeon and a psychologist appointed by the defence to assess my client,” said Samuel. The packed gallery reacted with murmurs of disbelief.
Family and friends of the victims packed the courtroom, and some attempted to push their way through the courtroom doors to be seated, despite the benches being filled to capacity.
Others pressed their faces against the courtroom windows from the corridors, catching glimpses of Kandasamy through the blue blinds.
Police officers guarded the entrances to the court room, and one stood guard behind the dock.
Dressed neatly in a formal pale blue shirt, Kandasamy appeared to be unshaven and, was largely expressionless.
Some onlookers said he looked disoriented and “not all there”.
Samuel requested that Kandasamy be moved from the Chatsworth police holding cells, and sent to the Westville Prison Hospital for a mental assessment.
“The station commander is not amenable to Kandasamy being kept in Chatsworth,” said Samuel, adding that Kandasamy was believed to be a risk to police if detained at the Chatsworth cells.
Magistrate Leon Nielsen interjected, asking for a basis as to why Kandasamy’s mental state needed to be assessed.
“It is clear from my discussions with my client that… he has a mental defect,” said Samuel.
Nielsen queried whether Kandasamy had received any counselling prior to the murders, or had a history of mental instability, and whether an assessment of his mental state required him to be kept at the Westville Prison Hospital.
Samuel replied that Kandasamy could be a danger to the general population.
“One must entertain a doubt that it’s possible the murders are related to a mental defect.”
“His rights are important,” said Samuel.
This argument was met with more murmuring from those in the gallery.
Nielsen agreed to Kandasamy being moved from Chatsworth to Westville Prison, but not to the prison hospital, as there was no basis to claim he was mentally unstable.
National Director of Public Prosecutions Mxolisi Nxasana said the NPA was keen to show the public they took the case seriously and would see justice served.
On why so many police officers were in court, Nxasana said: “With members of the public so angry we don’t want to take a risk and don’t want to see people taking the law into their own hands.”
Outside court, about 100 people demonstrated, some bearing placards reading: “No Bail”.
Claims by Kandasamy’s legal team that he might be mentally unstable, were met with scepticism by the crowds.
Neighbour Meena Ramterath said people wanted to know the truth of what happened and why, as there was no need for innocent lives to be lost.
“How could a person do that, how can you kill your children?” she asked, adding that she and her children had known the Kandasamy siblings.
Nireshnie and Melisha Pillay, who knew the siblings, said they were respectable children.
“They were so humble and kind, both of them were very intelligent and she played netball and he played chess and soccer,” they said.
Melarisa obtained two distinctions in her matric exams, and had been accepted to study towards a BCom degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal this year.
Samuel, speaking on behalf of Kandasamy’s family, said they were not willing to speak about the matter at this stage.
“They lost a sister-in-law and their niece and nephew, and are dealing with the fact that he is accused of the murders, it’s a difficult time for them as well,” said Samuel.
Ronnie Kallan, uncle of Mala, said they welcomed a mental assessment of Kandasamy.
“We are not doctors so we don’t know, but the court has ruled on this so they can get expert advise,” he said.
Community leader Visvin Reddy said Kandasamy could not have been mentally unstable for such a long period and questioned whether he was mentally unstable in any way, believing that he acted in a rational manner.
The Minority Front’s Roy Bhoola said the case was a clear example of an erosion of family values.
“Criminals must be put in jail and the keys must be thrown in the ocean,” said Bhoola.
- Independent On Saturday