Death driver’s ‘sorry’ - seven years on

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Copy of ND Car crash 2 (42369381) THE MERCURY Desen Naidoo walking into court with a relative. Photo: SIYANDA MAYEZA

Durban - An Umhlanga businessman, guilty of culpable homicide and testifying in the hope of avoiding a jail sentence, has apologised to the family of the man he killed for the first time in seven years since the deadly crash.

Desen Naidoo, 39, had been charged with murder for the May 2007 crash in which a father of two, Mervin Sugreem, was killed.

Durban Regional Court magistrate Thomas Nhleko had convicted Naidoo of culpable homicide, and argument was being heard on Tuesday over sentencing.

Naidoo had been speeding excessively in a 70km/h zone when his car, a modified Chevrolet Lumina, crashed into Sugreem’s VW Polo at the intersection of Chris Hani (North Coast) and Effingham roads.

Sugreem, flung out of his vehicle, died instantly.

Naidoo’s lawyer, advocate Jimmy Howse, told the court on Tuesday that Naidoo’s attorney had advised him not to speak to the family owing to difficulties, including the murder charge and alleged death threats.

However, prosecutor, Krishen Shah, argued for a robust sentence and said Naidoo had had an opportunity to speak of his remorse when he testified during the trial - but did not.

Naidoo told the court that he could afford to pay a fine suitable for the offence, or should the court require a more stern sentence, he requested correctional supervision.

He also asked Nhleko not to revoke his driver’s licence as he needed to drive to clients for his auto engineering business.

In its case during the trial, the State had alleged Naidoo had jumped a red traffic light and had hit Sugreem’s car as it turned into Chris Hani Road.

Naidoo admitted that his car had crashed into the Polo but claimed the traffic light had been in his favour and he had been unable to avoid the collision.

In his judgment, in April, Nhleko found the evidence of witness Christopher Bengston honest and impressive, and crucial for finding Naidoo guilty.

Bengston had testified that he had seen the Lumina at two intersections before the intersection where it crashed into the Polo.

At each intersection, he said the Lumina had sped off, the wheels had spun and he had heard the engine’s “high rev”.

He said at the second intersection the car shook and swerved from the centre to the fast lane and he saw “sparks fly”.

Nhleko found that irrespective of whether Naidoo had right of way, based on Bengston’s evidence, he drove the car at an excessive speed as he entered the intersection where the collision occurred.

The impact had been so severe that the Polo was ripped in two and the engine was detached from the car’s body.

Naidoo’s car, which had a supercharger, smashed into a brick wall after the collision.

Naidoo had pleaded not guilty and had said he raced cars as a hobby.

Yesterday Sugreem’s wife, Shamin, sat at the back of the courtroom with her mother while Naidoo’s wife Debbie and his supporters, which included controversial businessman Jay Singh’s son Ravi Jagadasan and his wife Serena, sat in front.

Jagadasan runs Rectangle Property Investments, which owns the land the Tongaat Mall was being built on. The mall collapsed in November killing two people and injuring 29.

Howse, said on Tuesday that his client was the family’s breadwinner and had suffered serious injuries as a result of the horror crash including back and leg injuries, vertebra fractures and also had to undergo a “long process of reconstruction” before he was mobile.

“He’s suffered tremendously and will suffer for the rest of his days. It will always be a reminder to him of the collision. He still has to undergo corrective surgery,” Howse told the court.

“This is not detracting from what happened to the deceased. Life is precious and (Naidoo) appreciates that,” he said.

Howse said there had been no formal apology from Naidoo to Sugreem’s family because of the difficulties at the outset. He was referring to the charge of murder, the allegations of racing and the emotions felt by Sugreem’s family.

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