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Durban - Former lawyer Koobashan Naicker’s guilty plea on Monday to charges of culpable homicide, drunk driving and reckless and negligent driving has provided little comfort to the families of some of his victims.
Audrey Bell, whose daughter-in-law Gillian and eight-year-old grandson, Connor, died when they were hit by Naicker’s Mercedes Benz on Athlone Bridge in Durban North in March 2011, was hoping he would have been tried for murder as initially charged.
Dance teacher Carmen Hunter was also killed in the accident, for which Naicker has finally admitted guilt.
“I ought to have realised that a combination of alcohol and drugs was dangerous,” the former lawyer said in admitting that he was driving recklessly that fateful day.
Naicker’s guilty plea statement was read out by his counsel, advocate Christo van Schalkwyk, in the Durban Regional Court on Monday.
Naicker admitted to being the direct cause of death of the three people.
“They died as a result of my negligence and unlawful action,” he said.
But Bell, who was in court together with Caro Smit and Charlotte Sullivan of the organisation South Africans Against Drunk Driving (SADD), is not happy with the change of charges.
“I’m upset that the charges have changed from murder to culpable homicide. Three people died,” she said later, adding that Gillian’s husband, Jason, had told her their two young daughters had seen things on the day of the accident “that no child should”. They are still seeing a psychologist.
Bell said Naicker had robbed two little girls of their mother and their brother.
“I now have to break the news to Jason. Koobashan Naicker said he was going to plead guilty last year. He should’ve done it then,” she said.
Earlier, State advocate Mahen Naidu read out the eight counts Naicker had pleaded guilty to – half of them were related to other incidents.
Count one was for driving under the influence in May 2009. Naicker was driving a Porsche Cayenne on Watson Highway in Tongaat. He was stopped by a police officer and taken to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital in Phoenix for a blood sample. A Pretoria laboratory found that he had a 0.26 g/ml blood alcohol reading.
Count two related to negligent driving five months later. He was driving a white Mercedes Benz and had entered the uShaka Marine World parking area at a time when it was closed to the public. Naicker admitted to having drinks that day and said he failed to keep a proper lookout and knocked into a drum when he entered the parking area when a person normally would not have.
Count three was for negligent driving in February 2010 on the R102 in Tongaat for which he admitted to speeding, failing to stop at a robot and failing to stop when a police officer was trying to flag him down. He admitted he had drinks earlier that day and had misjudged the speed at which he was driving. “My driving that night was negligent. I should’ve realised that the man following me was a police officer,” his statement read.
Count four referred to reckless driving in February 2011. Naicker admitted to speeding and failing to stop at a stop street in Riverside. He collided with another vehicle and blamed it on an eye condition, a “detached retina” that affected his peripheral vision.
Counts five to eight referred to the Athlone collision that happened a month later. Naicker admitted to driving recklessly in his white Mercedes Benz on Northway and said this was in circumstances where a reasonable driver would not be in the vehicle.
He said he failed to avoid a collision and bring the car to a standstill.
Magistrate Blessing Msani accepted Naicker’s guilty plea and granted Van Schalkwyk’s application for Naicker to remain on R8 000 bail while reports were being prepared by correctional supervision and probation officers, social workers, a criminologist, an opthamologist and a clinical psychologist.
Arguments for mitigation and aggravation of sentence would be heard in January.
Later, Smit said Naicker should receive a 15-year prison sentence and also be asked to financially compensate the families of those who died as a result of the accident.