Durban - A domestic worker and her three accomplices have gone on trial for the murder of her pensioner employer.
Happiness Mkhize, 35, is believed to be the mastermind behind the murder of Shallcross pensioner Hemrani Brijlal, 65, on May 6, 2017.
Mkhize, her friend Pinky Nonkululeko Cele, 32, Doctor Vitus Mabhida, 41, and Sibongiseni Patric Gumbi, 31, are on trial in the Durban High Court, facing charges of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.
The court heard that Brijlal, who was divorced and lived alone, told Mkhize she wanted to sell furniture and appliances from her home.
Mkhize is believed to have plotted with her accomplices to pretend to be buyers.
On the day of the killing, they entered Brijlal’s home on the pretext of wanting to buy a fridge from her. Once inside, the assailants bound and gagged her.
She was allegedly struck on the head with a brick and strangled. The criminals then went to her bedroom, where they searched for jewellery and money. They fled with R600 in cash.
A post-mortem concluded that Brijlal died of strangulation.
Yesterday, the four - who have been in custody since being arrested shortly after the crime - denied confession statements they made after their arrests. They claimed they were assaulted and coerced into writing and signing them.
However, Constable Thokozani Goodman Khanyile told the court he was one of the three officers who arrested the four two years ago, and no one was assaulted during the process.
He said there was no need for violence because the suspects had co-operated with the police.
Mkhize and Cele were arrested in Chatsworth after they received information from informants about their whereabouts.
Khanyile said he was with two colleagues at all times and had assisted in translating when Mkhize and Cele were charged. He made sure they understood the process.
He said Cele and Mkhize had during consultation indicated that they wanted to say something regarding the case, and as the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Singh, had no authority to take the statement, he arranged for the statement to be taken by a commissioned officer.
Khanyile said Cele gave them information that Mabhida was in Umkomaas and offered to take them there.
“On our way there we received information that the person we were looking for was in Chatsworth. We drove back to Chatsworth, where Mabhida was arrested.”
Khanyile said Gumbi was arrested at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court where he appeared for another case.
Under cross-examination Mkhize’s lawyer, advocate Gcina Khumalo, said Mkhize would testify that she was assaulted by police officers while being arrested at her home.
“She will tell the court that you were the good Samaritan and had reprimanded the other two officers for assaulting her. She will say that you never laid a hand on her,” said Khumalo.
Advocate Winston Maqutu pointed Khanyile to the fact that the police documents had no signature in the space allocated for an interpreter.
“The evidence that you were there during the arrests and had interpreted is clearly not true, because you did not sign,” he said.
Maqutu said Mabhida would say he was arrested without explanation and assaulted in the process.
Outside court, Brijlal’s ex-husband, Andran Brijlal, said his ex-wife was “a good woman who loved to help the less fortunate”. He said although they were separated, he often visited her. He said Brijlal often gave Mkhize food, money and clothing.