Durban - A drug addict who was paid R20 000 to carry out a hit gave chilling testimony on Monday of how he pumped three bullets into a Durban money lender.
His confession has threatened to bring down a ring of six people, including a prosecutor and an advocate, alleged to have masterminded the hit on Narend Anandrai, 46.
The court heard that the syndicate owed Anandrai money, believed to amount to more than R1 million.
Chatsworth resident Gregory Pillay, 37, was sentenced by the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Monday to 18 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to the premeditated murder of Anandrai.
He had been arrested in Chatsworth on Thursday night after intensive detective work by members of the SAPS provincial specific crimes unit.
Pillay confessed to the murder to investigating officer Sagie Govender, and testified in court on Monday about the hit.
Anandrai was shot at the entrance to a property in Havenside Drive, Chatsworth, on March 18. As he lay dead at the wheel of his black Mercedes-Benz ML, the vehicle veered forward, scraped the wall of the property and burst into flames.
Asked how many people were involved in the murder, Pillay testified that to his knowledge there were six, including a prosecutor, an advocate, a former policeman, a businessman, and a paralegal.
He named two of the six - the advocate and former policeman - but Magistrate Trevor Levitt instructed the media not to publish the names of any of the people implicated by Pillay because investigations were continuing and further arrests were expected.
Pillay testified that he was travelling with two people - who may not be named, the magistrate has ruled - in a Hyundai i20 on the night of the hit when the driver asked him to be on the lookout for a black Mercedes Benz ML.
On finding the vehicle, Pillay said, “the driver picked up a brown-handled gun and handed it to me.”
“He said ‘Laaitie bru, the pipe is ready, go do your thing’. I understood it to be to shoot the driver.
“As the car (Mercedes) was facing the driveway, I got out. I was only a couple of metres away and within seconds, I was up against the driver’s door.
“I fired three shots at the front window, through the glass. The firearm then jammed.
“I saw the vehicle jerk and move forward while the engine was running. It scraped on the gate and side wall and I turned and ran away.”
At this point in Pillay’s testimony, Anandrai’s wife, Jayshree Pillay, began to sob.
Pillay said the three of them drove to a property in Jacobs. There, he handed the gun back to the driver, who asked him to remove his hooded Levi jacket because the residue would show.
“He took the jacket and put it in a plastic bag. I needed to have a fix. I went and bought some drugs.”
Pillay said the driver had promised to pay him R20 000, and told him that a woman would pay him a further R100 000 if the job was completed on the same day.
“I got paid the R20 000 in two payments of R10 000 in R200 notes a few days later. I kept persisting with the driver for the remainder, to which he responded I must be patient.
“The driver told me that the passenger of our vehicle and the woman behind the R100 000 were ‘jolling’, meaning they were having an affair.
“I never received the R100 000.”
Pillay said he was extremely remorseful for his actions and asked for forgiveness from Anandrai’s family.
He asked that Anandrai’s widow, Jayshree Pillay, find it in her heart to forgive him.
Jayshree Pillay told the court she was glad Pillay had been caught. She hoped the others would also be arrested.
Sentencing Pillay, magistrate Levitt said this was the most difficult part of the trial.
He acknowledged that premeditated murder carried a life sentence, but said he had taken into account Pillay’s co-operation and his willingness to testify against any further people arrested.
A post-mortem confirmed that Anandrai died from gunshot wounds.
There was a heartfelt moment after his sentencing, as Gregory’s mother came face to face with Anandrai’s widow, Jayshree Pillay.
Both women hugged each other, teary-eyed, as the convicted man’s mother asked for forgiveness.
Gregory’s mother, who did not want to be named, said she was extremely hurt by her son’s actions and felt that he had been used by others.
“I am now alone as he used to live with me. We hoped we could get a lighter sentence considering the remorse he has shown. Justice must also be served on those who used him. They planned everything.”
When asked what she said when she embraced Anandrai’s widow, she said: “I told her: ‘I am so sorry for what happened. Please forgive us.’”