Durban - RETIRED Chatsworth couple Loganathan Pillay, 70, and his wife Gonapathy welcomed their attackers into their home, fed them coffee and cake, and gave them bananas from their garden before they were set upon.
Pillay, who survived the attack with several stab wounds, told the Durban High Court on Wednesday that they were under the impression that the estate agent they had dealt with in trying to sell their home, Lungani Basil Underhill, was introducing them to a potential buyer.
Lungani Basil Underhill arrived with Sibonelo Braveman Underhill, whom Pillay said was introduced to them by Basil as his cousin, the alleged property buyer, Fredboy Msomi, and another man, identified only as Thembinkosi, who is still at large, on the night of September, 30, 2017.
According to the State’s case, Basil was the mastermind behind the incident, which resulted in the murder of Gonapathy Pillay, a much-loved former principal.
Pillay told the court how Basil repeatedly stabbed him in the body while he lay face down on the bathroom floor, and helplessly watched as his wife was strangled with her scarf.
He told the court that he stayed still on the bathroom floor until he heard a vehicle leave, before he could drag himself to activate the panic button.
Under cross-examination, Basil’s lawyer, Shaheen Seedat, said the estate agent would testify that he was not a party to the robbery and did not stab Pillay.
“He will tell the court he was under duress and coerced by Msomi to do what he did and was threatened with a gun.”
Seedat said that after Basil finished eating, he went to the kitchen to wash his hands. When he returned to the living room, Msomi had a gun, was wearing white surgical gloves and motioned with a finger on his lips for him to keep quiet.
“He will testify that Msomi took his cellphone from the pocket of his shirt and told him if he did anything stupid, he would shoot him, his cousin and the other man known as Thembinkosi.
“He told Basil to take the knife on the counter top and point it at you (Pillay), and drag you to the bottom of the house.
“He was terrified and believed he (Msomi) would kill him (Basil).”
Seedat said Basil would also testify that he dragged Pillay down the stairs while Gonapathy was dragged by Thembinkosi.
He would testify that Thembinkosi kicked Pillay’s wife in the ribs.
“At that time, Msomi was swearing in isiZulu, saying ‘Sibonelo, where are you running to? Voetsek. Come back here.’’
Basil would say that Thembinkosi had asked where the safe was, and that the couple had indicated where the safe was and that the men could take anything they wanted, but not kill them.
However, Pillay denied this version, saying there were no conversations and everything had happened fast.
He said he co-operated with the men, and his wife was held so tightly that she could not say anything.
“They pushed us and rolled us down the stairs. Basil said, ‘Please keep quiet and nothing will happen’. I was thrown on the bathroom floor and Basil started thrusting the knife in my back.
“When I looked at Gona, Fredboy was holding her tightly and Braveman was busy strangling her. She was screaming, until it all went quiet.”