Taariq Phillips and Sharisha Chauhan Photo: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Taariq Phillips has been found not guilty of killing his girlfriend at a New Year's Eve rave five years ago – but was convicted of raping her before she died.

Phillips appeared emotionless in the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday when he was acquitted of the murder of Sharisha Chauhan, News24 reported.

Chauhan died on New Year's Day in 2013 after being admitted to Paarl Mediclinic for a suspected drug overdose. Chauhan, Phillips and several of their friends had attended a rave at Le Bac Estate in Paarl.

The State had alleged that the group had taken drugs and went dancing that night, whereafter Chauhan started feeling ill.

Phillips had accompanied his girlfriend back to the tent, the prosecution claimed, and an hour later the accused called for help.

Chauhan had been naked and convulsing in the tent, and paramedics treated her at the estate before she was transported to hospital, where she later died.

She had also suffered vaginal and anal injuries. According to the post-mortem, she died of strangulation. A toxicology report found no drugs in her system.

Judge Lee Bozalek said there was no direct evidence that Phillips had strangled Chauhan.

Defence pathologist Dr Steve Naidoo testified that Chauhan's death had been caused by drugs and that her genital injuries could have been caused by masturbation, pointing out that no DNA belonging to someone else had been found.

Judge Bozalek said there was no direct evidence produced by the State that Chauhan did not consent to sex with Phillips, but questioned if consent could have been given, seeing that she had apparently been under the influence of LSD or MDMA, earlier complaining to a friend that she had felt like she was "melting".

She was also apparently unable to sit up straight. Phillips had maintained they had not had sex, but Bozalek said evidence from two witnesses pointed to the contrary.

Judge Bozalek questioned how, if Chauhan had reportedly been confused and disoriented before she lost consciousness, she would have been able to give consent.

The accused had elected not to testify. Phillips’s bail was extended, as the State argued that he was a convicted rapist and faced a lengthy prison sentence. Originally out on R2 000 bail, Judge Bozalek increased this to R5 000. 

Phillips also has to report to the Goodwood police station. Sentencing proceedings commence on October 29.