Durban - The man found guilty of the brutal murders of a well-known South Coast couple fainted in court on Thursday when he heard the lengthy jail sentence he would serve.
Umkomaas couple Sathie and Southree Pillay were murdered in their home in Willowglen on August 1 by Shalin Ganesh, 37, who had been renting a room in the couple’s home at the time.
Sathie, 78, was bludgeoned with a hammer and Southree, 74, was assaulted and then strangled during the attack. Ganesh then stole and drove off in their car.
The Umkomaas neighbourhood watch spotted the Pillays’ car and felt something was amiss. When they investigated, they found bloodstains on the doorstep of the couple’s house and called the police.
Officers broke down the door and found Sathie lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Southree was found dead in a room.
The community began searching for the vehicle, which was spotted at a petrol station in Umkomaas.
Ganesh was arrested on the freeway driving the couple’s vehicle soon after the incident.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele said Ganesh had appeared in the Pietermaritzburg High Court this week and been convicted on two counts of murder and one of theft.
He was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for the murders and five years for the theft. Mbele said the sentences would run concurrently, giving him an effective 30-year term.
Umkomaas councillor Jane Naidoo said Ganesh had fainted in the dock and proceedings had been stopped briefly.
“He collapsed. I’m not sure if he was pretending, but a court orderly checked up on him and lifted him back up to his feet. He seemed fine,” she said.
The Pillays’ daughter, Sharon Pillay, said she was very emotional and not happy with the sentencing.
“We are reliving the whole experience again. We expected two life terms,” she said.
Naidoo said she had also expected a longer sentence.
“The DNA tests and footage of him at the petrol station placed him at the scene. He did not hand himself over and he was not remorseful for his actions,” she said.
Narend Singh, IFP chief whip and Umkomaas resident, wished that when the sentence was reviewed, a longer term was imposed. He said it had brought comfort to the family that the matter was finalised and would not drag on, like many other cases.
“For such a cold and callous deed, one would have expected him to be given a life sentence. However, we need to respect the independence of the judiciary and the circumstances the court took into consideration when passing sentence,” Singh said.