Durban - A quarrel with neighbours hosting a bridal shower turned violent in the early hours of Sunday morning, ending with a mother being shot dead and her daughter wounded - allegedly by police who apparently mistook them for those involved.
Responding after bricks were thrown and a gunshot fired into the air, police had allegedly fired at a car that had just arrived at the scene.
Former KwaZulu-Natal woman Rita Pillay, 53, was shot in the head and her daughter Deshnika, 19, in the left leg.
The women, two of Deshnika’s friends and her brother, Yogash, who was driving his Chrysler SUV, had just returned to their Lenasia South home from buying food at a McDonalds outlet when they were shot.
None of them were armed.
Pillay’s devastated family claimed that as Yogash turned around and rushed them to a nearby clinic, police pursued them and continued firing.
His mother died before they got there.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) confirmed that members of Lenasia South SAPS were allegedly involved and that their firearms had been sent for ballistic testing.
Spokesman Moses Dlamini said a case of murder and attempted murder had been opened.
Pillay’s outraged family are calling for swift justice.
“When they (police) saw my sister-in-law was dead, they began picking up all their shells and fled the scene,” claimed Ashley Pillay.
‘How can police shoot inside a vehicle not knowing who is inside? What if there were kids there?”
The incident unfolded at around 11.30pm on Saturday in Azalea Street, Extension 1.
According to Pillay, Rita’s son Yogash had had an altercation with his neighbours earlier on.
“The neighbours were having a bridal shower and there was an argument with my nephew and one of them.”
He was not sure about what the altercation was about, but said it was quickly resolved.
“At around 11pm, Yogash, together with his mother (Rita), sister Deshnika and two of Deshnika’s friends went to buy (takeaways from) McDonalds.
“Meanwhile, back at their home, my brother (Shorgan) was sleeping when he was suddenly awoken by the noise of bricks being thrown at the house.
“He did not know what was happening and fired a warning shot in the air.”
According to Pillay, a group of young men were standing at a garage a few metres away from their homes and contacted the police.
“When Yogash arrived home, the boys apparently pointed his car out to police and screamed, There’s the vehicle’. My nephew was 50m away from home when police began firing shots and my nephew continued driving.
“When he realised his mother was shot, my nephew drove off to the nearest clinic, Lenasia South Clinic, by which time his mother was dead. Two police officers followed them all the way to clinic and were shooting at the car.
“When my nephew grabbed his mother out the car, he began screaming, My mother is dead’.”
That’s when the police officers allegedly began picking up all the shells before leaving, he said.
Pillay said Deshnika was recovering in hospital. “We had to break the news to her that her mother is dead. It is such a tragedy. The whole family is traumatised.
“They were innocently coming home from McDonald’s and police started firing for no apparent reason.”
He described Rita as a “soft and tender person” who did not deserve to die this way.
Dlamini, the Ipid spokesman, said a fight had broken out between neighbours late on Saturday night. Local CPF members had noticed what was happening and contacted the police.
“Mr Pillay (Yogash), his mother, his sister and two (others) then drove out to buy food.
“Upon their return, the man he had fought with pointed him out to the police.
“The police tried to stop him, but he drove away. Police then gave chase and shots were fired towards the vehicle.”
Dlamini said Pillay’s mother was shot in the head and his sister in the leg.
“Mr Pillay drove to Lenmed hospital.
On arrival, his mother was declared dead and he sister was admitted for treatment.
“No firearm was recovered from the occupants of the car.”
Dlamini said it later emerged that it was Yogash’s father who had fired the shot in his yard before the police were called. “His firearm was confiscated and taken for ballistics testing.”
Pillay’s funeral is expected to take place on Wednesday.