Photo: African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - A woman who was one of the accused in the murder of a Chatsworth pensioner wept with joy on Thursday when she was acquitted in the Durban High Court of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances after spending two years in jail.

Pinky Nonkululeko Cele, 32, a mother of one, was arrested in 2017 with her cousin, Happiness Mkhize, 35, who is alleged to be the mastermind behind the murder of Shallcross pensioner Hemrani Brijlal, 65, in May 2017.

Mkhize and two other alleged accomplices, Doctor Vitus Mabhida, 41, and Sibongiseni Patric Gumbi, 31, are still on trial, facing charges of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

During the State’s case, conducted by State advocate Khadija Essack, which concluded yesterday, the court heard that Brijlal, who was divorced and lived alone, had told Mkhize that she wanted to sell some of her furniture and appliances. Mkhize is alleged to have plotted with her accomplices to pretend to be buyers.

The State alleged that on the day of the murder, the accused had entered Brijlal’s home on the pretext of wanting to buy a fridge. Once inside, the assailants bound and gagged her.

She was allegedly struck on the head with a brick and strangled with an apron. It is alleged that the criminals then went to her bedroom, where they searched for jewellery and money and fled the scene with R600 in cash, which had allegedly been in Brijlal’s drawer.

A post-mortem concluded that Brijlal had died of strangulation.

Cele’s attorney, Arthi Singh, had applied for a discharge as the court had already ruled, in a trial within a trial, that the confession statement she made after her arrest was inadmissible.

Cele claimed that she had made the statement under duress, claiming that she was assaulted and forced to do so.

Singh also argued that there was no evidence involving Cele in the State’s case.

“The State has not proven beyond reasonable doubt that she (Cele) had any role in the incident. The statements made by her co-accused do not point at her. I ask that she be discharged in all the charges against her,”said Singh.

Essack, however, opposed the application and argued that the court should exercise its discretion and take into consideration the possibility that Cele may be implicated should her co-accused take the witness stand.

However, Judge Mahendra Chetty found Cele not guilty and acquitted her on all the charges.

Cele appeared overwhelmed by her acquittal and sat motionless in the dock next to her cousin until the court orderly signalled her to leave the dock.

She quickly stood up, took her jacket and ran down the stairs as if she could not believe what had just happened.

The trial continues on Friday.

Daily News