Durban - Accountant Nick Longano knew exactly what he was doing when he suffocated his long-term girlfriend to death by standing on her neck, and was not suffering from a psychological disorder as he told the Durban High Court.
This was the judgment of Judge Kate Pillay on Thursday when she found Longano guilty of purposely murdering Viloba Naidoo, 35, at their Glenwood flat in 2010.
She even accused him of tailoring his evidence to convince the court that he was suffering from “sane automatism”, a condition in which a person acts involuntarily while in an altered state of mind.
Naidoo was killed on August 1, 2010, after an argument with Longano at the flat they were trying to sell following their break-up, which Longano had not come to terms with.
The court heard the couple were separating their belongings when they started arguing over curtains.
Throughout the trial Longano’s version had been that during the argument Naidoo had thrown a candlestick at him, and he had retaliated by pushing her and then standing on her neck for only a few seconds.
However, he said he could not recall what happened after that, other than eventually realising she was dead.
Longano’s defence was that a cocktail of medication for his severe depression over the breakup had led him to kill Naidoo, but he had no awareness of doing so.
But Judge Pillay rejected this. She said although the defence had “gone to great lengths” to attribute Longano’s state of mind to the medication he was taking, it was clear he had just read the side effects of the drugs on the label and claimed to have been suffering from them.
Citing evidence by expert psychological witnesses for the State and defence, Pillay said: “Any side effects would have taken five or six days… the dosage the accused took was the minimum, yet he said he suffered the side effects immediately.”
The judge also labelled Longano an evasive witness and said his testimony and those of the defence witnesses did not impress her.
She did not accept the evidence that he was suffering from severe depression. “He said he was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder, yet he was able to get up, dress up and continue with his day.”
After Longano had killed Naidoo he phoned his mother, a fact he would not have remembered had he been in the state of mind he claimed to have been, Judge Pillay said. He was “clearly not shocked” after Naidoo’s death and had not shown remorse, she said.
“The accused’s version is rejected… He stood on her neck, took his foot off and then stood on it again. His action was purposeful.
“He is therefore found guilty.”
For Naidoo’s family however, there was no celebration. The verdict merely brought to a close one aspect of their suffering over the past four years.
Wiping away tears, her two sisters, with whom she shared a very close relationship, were calm, saying they had hoped for a guilty verdict and their sister finally had justice.
Naidoo’s aunt Kamala said she was supporting her nieces in the absence of their 83-year-old mother, who was very frail.
“She would have loved to have been here. She said it was the closure she needed before she dies.”
Naidoo’s brother Shanen said the verdict brought closure in the sense that Longano had been found guilty, but that there was never full closure after losing a close family member. The scar would always be there, he said.