A man who shot an organiser of the India Fair in Durban had “fired with intent to kill and without justification”, a Pinetown magistrate said on Thursday.
Pinetown Regional Court magistrate Stanley Gumede rejected Pregasen Nair’s defence that he was forced by gangsters to kill Malvern businessman Anand Pillay.
Nair, 33, was found guilty in December for attempting to kill Pillay.
Gumede elaborated on his verdict on Thursday, saying Nair was a poor witness whose evidence was “incoherent and implausible”.
“He lied about the distance at the time of the shooting and about trying to fire his gun away from (Pillay). He fired with intent to kill and without justification,” the magistrate said. “There is no doubt the motive for shooting (Pillay) was false.”
Pillay, 37, told the court during arguments for sentencing on Thursday that his minor children were still traumatised by the April 2011 incident as they had seen him lying in a pool of blood after being shot outside his house.
“My family and I no longer go out at night because we are afraid. I don’t know what might happen to me. My three young children constantly live in fear,” he said. “If we are travelling in our car and there’s a car behind us, they tell me that a car is following us. This has been a real ordeal for us. At work, I’ve positioned my desk to face the door to keep a watch.”
During the trial, the State had led evidence that the motive for the shooting was due to business rivalry and that Nair was hired by Phoenix businessman Vivek Dhanraj and Perumal Moodley to kill Pillay.
Nair, of Phoenix, was arrested in April 2011 along with his brother, Jagadesan Nair, as well as Dhanraj and Moodley. The others were originally charged with conspiracy to commit murder, but the charge was later withdrawn against Jagadesan Nair, whose car was used during the time the shooting took place.
Dhanraj and Moodley had apparently confessed to the crime, but had claimed during the trial that they were forced to do so. This led to a trial-within-a-trial on the admissibility of the confessions. However, before a finding was made on the admissibility, prosecutor Stan Miloszewski decided to stay prosecution against the pair and no further evidence was led against them.
Nair had testified that he had borrowed R5 000 from Dhanraj and when he had visited the Phoenix businessman to repay him, he said the money was not accepted and that he was approached by two gangsters – men he did not know – and told to kill Pillay. He was allegedly given a gun and told to monitor Pillay’s movements.
The court had heard that three days before shooting Pillay, Nair had gone to Pillay’s house under the pretext of his car breaking down and him wanting some water.
On the night of April 3, 2011, Nair waited for Pillay to return home. When Pillay arrived, he recognised Nair’s car from earlier. He walked to the car and complimented Nair on it. Pillay had testified to shaking Nair’s hand when Nair had reached for what he thought was a cellphone.
Pillay was shot in both his thighs and an arm and the bullets caused internal injuries, resulting in him being incapacitated for six months.
On Thursday, Pillay testified that he had to be moved from a private hospital to a State hospital because he did not have medical aid.
“I underwent an operation because of complications from the shooting. To date, the shooting has affected me financially and medically. I am still paying the massive medical bills and I have to undergo another operation soon because of the first operation,” he said.
Outside court, he said the scar was a daily reminder of the trauma he had experienced.
Nair’s attorney, Zwela Khumalo, has argued that Nair was a suitable candidate for rehabilitation and that correctional supervision would serve this purpose.
Miloszewski, the prosecutor, argued for a prison sentence saying “there had to be consequences when one commits a crime”.
“My suggestion for motive is that he was hired to kill (Pillay). It is by the grace of God that Pillay is alive today. He could’ve easily died. Nair had ample time for reflection (he met Pillay three days before shooting him) and to get out of the situation, yet he did nothing. He has shown no remorse.”
Sentencing is expected next month.