State to oppose wrongful conviction suitComment on this story
Durban - The state is to oppose a R9.4 million claim for damages by Hilton Shaw, who was convicted of murdering his wife, then acquitted on appeal.
Susan Shaw was shot dead on a remote country estate in KwaZulu-Natal in 2007.
Shaw was found guilty in 2009 and acquitted on appeal in 2011.
In an application launched last year, Shaw said that the KZN director of public prosecutions and the ministers of justice and police were liable to pay him R9 424 800 in damages because he should not have been arrested and prosecuted in the first place.
In papers filed in reply with the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Tuesday, the state said Shaw’s arrest and detention had been lawful on the grounds of reasonable suspicion.
A date has yet to be set for the matter to be heard.
In papers, Shaw says the investigation against him was “characterised by significant shortcomings”.
He alleges that the prosecution proceeded “maliciously”, despite there being no witnesses and despite “clear indications arising from objective forensic evidence” that he had not shot his wife.
Among these indications was that no primer - gunshot - residue was found on his hands or his clothes.
Shaw alleges that the investigating officer gave “blatantly perjured evidence” at his 2007 bail application about the merits of the State’s case.
This evidence had led to his being refused bail.
He was refused bail four times and served six months in custody before being granted bail on appeal by the high court.
Shaw argues in papers that his wrongful arrest, detention and trial violated his constitutional rights.
He endured “pain, loss of amenities of life, shock, extreme humiliation, (and) grave infringement of his dignity, bodily and psychological integrity, health and physical and mental well-being”.
He was prevented from working full-time.
Also, he had incurred legal costs through his “unlawful arrest, detention and malicious prosecution”.
Shaw says he continues to experience stress.
His claim includes past and future medical expenses, among them for psychotherapy.
He was sentenced to 12 years in jail by Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner on June 15, 2009.
She found it was “overwhelmingly probable” that the couple had struggled and Shaw had shot his wife, the bullet entering her body just above her right armpit.
She rejected Shaw’s suggestion that his wife had committed suicide or was attacked by an intruder on June 3, 2007 at the home on the Lake Lyndhurst estate, Fort Nottingham.
The house was far from other homes, and set in rough terrain.
On July 19, 2011, KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Chiman Patel, Judge Dhaya Pillay and Judge Graham Lopes disagreed that Shaw had killed his wife and set him free.
They found it was a “real possibility” that Susan Shaw had committed suicide.
She had tried twice before to take her life by overdosing on pills, and had consulted a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist for depression.
She had an unusually high tolerance for, or abused, alcohol and this suggested “emotional and psychological instability”.