Durban - An uMhlanga Rocks businessman was convicted of culpable homicide on Tuesday after a regional magistrate found that “negligence and speeding” led to a horror crash seven years ago.
Desen Naidoo, an auto engineer, was charged with murder and reckless and negligent driving in connection with a May 2007 crash in which a father of two, Mervin Sugreem, was killed.
Durban Regional Court magistrate Thomas Nhleko convicted Naidoo of culpable homicide as he said the State had not proved he had intended to kill Sugreem.
He acquitted Naidoo of reckless and negligent driving as he said it was a “duplication” of the other charge.
The State alleged Naidoo was speeding excessively in a 70km/h zone when his car, a modified Chevrolet Lumina, crashed into Sugreem’s VW Polo at the intersection of North Coast and Effingham roads.
Sugreem, who was flung out of his vehicle, died instantly.
The impact was 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, who confirmed that he raced cars as a hobby, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
He admitted his car had crashed into the Polo but said the traffic light had been in his favour.
He said the Polo had suddenly turned into his path and he had been unable to avoid the collision.
Nhleko said the evidence of “honest and impressive” witness Christopher Bengston was crucial in his decision to find Naidoo guilty.
Bengston testified that he had seen the Lumina at two intersections before the intersection where it crashed into the Polo.
He said at each intersection, 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” from it.
Nhleko said 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 accused failed to keep a proper lookout and was speeding. His actions may not be described as safe driving. Intersections are dangerous areas of the road and drivers are expected to take extra care.”
He added that if Naidoo had been driving at a reasonable speed he could have taken steps to avoid the collision.
Speaking outside court, Sugreem’s wife, Shamin, said she had had a “long wait” for the case to reach finality.
“I am glad he has been convicted. I would not want another family to go through what we have in the past seven years.”
She said Naidoo had never apologised to her family.
“We have seen him on every occasion this case was in court, but he has never come up to us. He does not realise that my children lost a father.”
She said her children, who were aged 10 and 7 when the accident robbed them of their father, were “still numb”. “It has been a rough road, but time is helping us to heal.”
The case was adjourned to May for sentencing.