Durban — The trial of a Phoenix man charged with five counts of murder after he allegedly set his family alight had to be postponed on Thursday in the Durban High Court to allow for his attorney to recover from the flu.
Kista Chetty is on trial charged with the 2021 murders of his wife Elisha Naidoo, 39, his 13-year-old daughter Jadene, his 9-year-old son Jordan, 8-year-old daughter Aarav and his 3-year-old nephew Aldrin.
At the time of the incident, the family lived in a bedroom that they rented at a house in Kidstone Place, Phoenix. Chetty’s brother-in-law Deon Naidoo and others lived in the lounge of the same house.
There were 12 of them in total living in the house. On Thursday, fire expert Warrant Officer Siphelele Simphiwe Dube, attached to the fire subsection, finished off leading his evidence. He was then cross-examined by Chetty’s Legal Aid attorney, Musa Chiliza.
Before Chiliza began his cross-examination he indicated to the court that he was not feeling well and had flu. After senior State prosecutor advocate Krishen Shah had to ask Chiliza to repeat or rephrase questions, the court asked Chiliza if he was in a position to continue. Chiliza then asked if the court could stand down for 30 minutes for him to take medication.
On resumption, Chiliza indicated to the court that he was not in a position to continue and the case was postponed to Monday for him to recover.
Before leading evidence, Shah had asked Dube to comment on another scenario that the court had heard of how the fire had started in the bedroom of the house.
“The accused said he owns a grass-cutting machine which he kept on top of the wardrobe and a 5-litre container that contained petrol and oil only had a small amount in as he had used most on that day working. He said he took the cap of the container and poured a small amount in it and poured the mixture onto his chest and lit the spot on his chest and it immediately caught fire.
“He said when his clothes caught fire, his wife screamed and he took off his top and it landed on the container and it exploded and the fire spread.”
Dube responded by saying in the crime scene photo album, one of the bodies was on top of the grass cutter, which indicated that it was already in that position when the victim fell during the fire.
“When he said he poured a small amount onto the cap and poured it on the chest and lit, you’d expect for fire damage on his chest to be much more intense than the injuries he sustained and the clothing would have provided further fuel load.”
He said if an explosion had occurred, the container would have ruptured and the liquid would have spilled in different directions.
“You will also expect the liquid to spill on his legs, resulting in burn injuries on his legs because the petrol would soak onto his trouser. If an explosion occurred in the room you’d expect windows to break or dislodge because of the pressure of the explosion. According to the evidence there were no glasses lying further away from the window. In fact, the glass remains are on the inside windowsills. If there was an explosion, the glass pieces would have been on the outside and further away from the window because of the explosion.
“There is no evidence of an explosion,” said Dube.
He also pointed out from the photo album that the bed and side table, as well as the headboard remained in their original positions.
“These would have most probably moved if there had been an explosion in the room.”
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