File picture
Durban - Overkill. This is how a policeman described the manner in which Shanaaz Sewnarain was murdered.

Warrant Officer Viresh Panday testified in the Durban High Court on Monday, where Sewnarain’s husband, businessman Rajiv Sewnarain, stands accused of her murder.

He has pleaded not guilty to killing his wife on December 10, 2010 or of conspiring with a man called “Boxer” to have her killed.

He also faces a charge of defeating or obstructing the course of justice for telling police investigators, while he was being treated in a Durban hospital, that his wife was shot dead during a hijacking.

It is alleged Sewnarain staged the hijacking with two others, including a hitman, to carry out the murder.

This is the second time he has faced such charges. He was first sentenced to life imprisonment in the Durban Regional Court 12 days after Shanaaz’s body was found in the couple’s abandoned car in Folweni.

He later appealed against the decision, which was set aside because the trial had been conducted without assessors.

On Monday Panday testified that when he arrived at the scene he saw Shanaaz Sewnarain’s body in the rear-left seat of the car in which she was allegedly killed. There was blood on her head and clothes.

“I saw three gunshot wounds on her body. One was to the right temple of her head and two on the left area of the chest near the heart,” he said.

Panday also noticed burn marks around the wounds, which he said showed that the gun was placed on her skin when it was fired.

Panday felt it was “overkill” for someone to be killed in that manner in an alleged hijacking.

No threat

“It was also strange because one of Shanaaz’s arms was in a sling from a previous alleged hijacking attempt. So she was physically not a threat to the alleged hijackers and was just a passenger,” he said.

“It is common knowledge that hijackers target the drivers, who are the ones in control of the vehicles,” he said.

The consensus at the crime scene was that there was something suspicious about it being a genuine hijacking.

Panday said the medical examiner who conducted the post-mortem also noted that the gunshot wounds were excessive for a hijacking.

During his investigation, he learnt that Shanaaz had taken control of the family business. “This opened up a possibility that the murder could have been business-related,” Panday testified.

He found surveillance footage at two factories along the hijacking route and, after scanning the footage, police did not find the vehicles that were supposed to have been involved in the hijacking, he said.

Panday then went to the scene where the so-called hijacking occurred to look for witnesses. They found one who told them that he saw Rajiv Sewnarain being dropped off there, but the vehicle had been travelling in the opposite direction from where he had told investigators he was coming from. It was at this point that it dawned on Panday that Sewnarain was not being honest.

He looked at the previous hijacking attempt, and found that it had happened about 100m from the Sewnarains’s home.

“I found three things strange: the first was that instead of rushing her (Shanaaz) to a local clinic or hospital, he took her home. The second was that Shanaaz, who was the passenger, was shot and injured during the attack while Rajiv was relatively unharmed even though he was the driver.

“Thirdly, Shanaaz and Rajiv were driving back home from an outing and the alleged hijackers approached them as beggars. The lack of evasive manoeuvres by Rajiv to avoid the hijackers was suspicious."

The trial continues.

Daily News