Durban - With tears running down her cheeks, Cynthia Naidoo welcomed the life sentence handed down to her daughter’s killer, Niresh Singh, in the Durban High Court on Friday.
Trisha Naidoo, 28, died in hospital two weeks after Singh, 37, doused her in petrol and set her alight as she crouched against the wall in the toilet of their home on November 16, 2016.
Their relationship was described as turbulent and the KwaDukuza couple had argued over Singh’s ex-wife earlier in the evening.
While the horror of Trisha’s death will never leave her, Cynthia said: “I feel relieved my daughter has got justice. It has been a difficult two years. Two weeks ago it was exactly two years since she died (November 30).
“We went and visited her grave. His family don’t seem to understand, I will never see my child again.”
Trisha’s sister Nikita, who was also at the sentencing and was a witness in the trial, said Trisha’s son, who was 7 years old at the time of the murder, still misses his mother.
“He still remembers everything about his mother. His birthday was three days after her death, so this time of year will always be difficult for him. She was such a fun and loving person who enjoyed the festive season.”
Nikita had been looking after her sister’s son on the fateful night. She lived two doors away and she and her cousin Leevash Ramlakan heard Trisha’s screams for help.
They had to break down the locked front door and found Singh sitting on the couch downstairs. He looked at them as Trisha’s screams of “help, help I am burning” came from upstairs.
Running to help her, Nikita found her sister in the shower. Evidence presented at trial said smoke was still coming out of Trisha’s hair and her body was still steaming.
According to testimony, Singh came into the bathroom and said to Trisha, “I told your sister you did it to yourself.”
Singh remained expressionless in the dock yesterday morning as Judge Esther Steyn handed down his sentence in the high court.
He had always maintained that Naidoo took her own life. His version of events was that she poured petrol on herself and set herself alight.
But in her verdict, which was given in November, and in sentencing yesterday, the judge not only convicted him of murder, but found it to be premeditated.
Facts considered included that the front door of the house had to be broken open, a 5litre container of petrol was found on the stairwell and there were petrol spills throughout the house, the toilet door was off its hinges which evidence also showed it had been pushed from the inside of the toilet, two matches were found near the toilet door.
The medical examiner’s evidence indicated Trisha’s injuries showed protected areas of the body and she was crouched down when petrol was thrown at her.
The SAPS forensic expert had also testified, “It was most likely she was in a defensive position, with her back against the wall.”
A neighbour, Lorraine Sewpersad, who was a nursing assistant at Stanger Hospital, had also gone to the house when she heard the commotion and helped cut off Trisha’s burned clothes before she was taken to hospital.
According to evidence, Trisha told the doctor in the emergency room she had set herself alight. But Sewpersad, giving evidence during the trial, said Trisha had asked her if Singh was at the hospital.
“When I assured her he was not, she said he had thrown petrol over her and thrown more under the door of the toilet and struck a match.”
Trisha died two weeks later and Nikita said she only spoke to her sister one more time before she was put on a ventilator.
The judge said while “the deceased lost her life in a horrific manner and a son his mother”, Singh had shown no remorse.
“He killed the deceased in the most gruesome manner possible, he set her alight and showed no interest in her afterwards.”
Describing domestic violence as a “hidden irreparable character”, which has a ripple effect on family life, she said, “The accused was her intimate partner who killed her in her own home and the sentence must be a deterrent. The court must send out a strong message.”
The judge rejected Singh’s leave to appeal the verdict and sentence.