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‘Money rows’ before killer fire

Kista Chetty remains behind bars while his trial takes place in the Durban High Court. He is charged with the murders of his wife, three children, and his nephew. Picture: Tumi Pakkies

Kista Chetty remains behind bars while his trial takes place in the Durban High Court. He is charged with the murders of his wife, three children, and his nephew. Picture: Tumi Pakkies

Published Aug 29, 2023


Durban — The State, in the trial of a 59-year-old Phoenix man charged with the murders of his wife, three children and his nephew, will continue to cross-examine the accused on Tuesday.

Senior State prosecutor Krishen Shah began cross-examining Kista Chetty on Monday, after he finished leading evidence of his version of what had happened the night his family perished in a fire, allegedly deliberately started by him.

Chetty is charged with the 2021 murders of his wife, Elisha Naidoo, 39, his 13-year-old daughter, Jadene, his 9-year-old son, Jordan, his 8-year-old daughter, Aarav, and his 3-year-old nephew, Aldrin.

At the time of the incident, the family lived in a bedroom they rented in a house on Kidstone Place, Phoenix.

Chetty’s brother-in-law, Deon Naidoo, and others, lived in the lounge of the same house. There were 12 of them in the house.

During his cross-examination, Chetty said he and his wife would argue over her brother living with them “for free”, but he did not have a “terrible” relationship with him.

Shah said: “If I understood your evidence, you were unhappy with your wife because she took Deon’s part, is that right? One of the big bones of contention was the issue of money that Deon would contribute, and your wife gave him back.

“The issue is that you worked and contributed, Deon would give his money, but then take it back. He was living off your hard work, that’s why you and your wife argued.”

Chetty agreed with this. He said he and his wife would argue but it would never escalate into a physical fight. Chetty said he and Deon would sometimes get into physical fights but would make up afterwards.

In his evidence-in-chief, he took the court through what happened before the fire started. He said he and his wife had argued and she had told him to go for a walk.

When he returned, he had been locked out of the house. When he was finally let in, his wife would not talk to him when he asked her what was going on. While in the bedroom with his family, Chetty thought he would kill himself.

“I took the petrol behind the door, opened the bottle, put some on the lid, and put it on my stomach. I took a lighter from my pocket and I lit my shirt from the bottom. My wife told me my shirt was on fire. I quickly took it off and threw it on the floor. I didn’t expect the gallon of petrol to be there, and the fire expanded. I went to the bathroom and took water in a bucket and tried to put the fire out,” he said.

Chetty said that as the flames grew, his wife and children were by the side of the window, and he picked up a burning double bunk bed, screaming for them to get out.

“I was getting burnt on my hands. I did worry about that. I went out of the room for help, told Deon to help me, and I went to my neighbours.

“We went to the back yard, where I busted the meter pipe and we pushed the pipe into the house, through the burglar guard, and through the open window,” he said.

Chetty said after that, he ran to his brother-in-law’s house and told him he had tried to burn himself and the house was on fire.

“He told me to go to the clinic and he’ll go to the house,” he said.

Chetty said that after he was not attended to at the clinic, he went to his brother-in-law’s house, where he stood on the street screaming for him.

“He came and put me in the car and said I must hand myself to the police,” he said.

Chetty said police followed them to the clinic. He claimed to not recall what happened after that.

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