Showing no remorse, a convicted killer grinned and laughed after he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the brutal murder of a well-known Durban North businessman.
David Smith and his co-accused Troy Conwood were convicted of the kidnapping and murder of Suraj Manikram and robbery with aggravating circumstances in the Durban High Court on Friday.
Manikram, 47, the owner of New Trend Panel Beaters, died after he was stabbed and suffocated on April 21 this year.
In their pleas, both men claimed that they had been employed by Manikram – Smith as a security guard and Conwood as a cleaner – but that he had failed to pay them the wages due to them.
Smith, who was out on parole for another murder when the crime was committed, said his wage was R600 a week, but that he never got this amount.
Conwood said Manikram had fired him and withheld his identity book and wages.
The men then plotted Manikram’s murder, and on April 21 they lured him to a shipping container at his Morningside business premises.
Smith stabbed him repeatedly and Conwood bound his hands and feet with rope.
Manikram was then left in the locked container. He attempted twice to free himself, but Conwood tied him up again.
“I then put a plastic packet over his head and tied a string around the packet at his neck. We then left him in the container,” Conwood said.
The two took Manikram’s vehicle, a Dodge Calibre, to uMlazi so that Smith could see his girlfriend.
When they returned to the property and found that Manikram was dead, they drove to Newlands West and dumped the body in a bushy area and abandoned the vehicle on Mathews Meyiwa (Stamford Hill) Road.
They also took Manikram’s cellphone, jewellery and cash.
In his plea, Conwood said he was sorry for his actions and wished to apologise to Manikram’s family.
Manikram’s son, Chewin, testified that Smith had been paid his wages.
“He may have been paid short on occasion, but the balance was always given to him later.”
State prosecutor Rea Mina said Smith had a string of previous convictions for crimes including robbery, theft and housebreaking dating back to 1981.
She said Conwood had no previous convictions.
Judge David Ntshangase said the men could have used other avenues if they had grievances against Manikram.
“He died a painful death. Smith’s previous convictions show that he has no respect for people’s property or their lives. The murder was brutal and cruel, and carried out by people the deceased (Manikram) had trusted.”
Speaking outside court, Manikram’s wife, Kubashnee, who cried throughout the hearing, said she was satisfied with the sentences.
“This whole process was very emotional for us. What the accused said about their wages in court was not correct – they were paid. There is no excuse for what they did. But we want to thank the police and the state prosecutor for all the effort they put in to bring closure for us.”