Durban - “I’m having sleepless nights.” These were the words of Sagren Govindasamy outside the Durban High Court on Thursday.
He is the husband of Phoenix mother, Jane, 45, and father to Denisha, 22, and Nikita, 16, who were murdered in the family’s Longcroft home last September.
This week, the trial of accused Colin Pillay, 46, saw some shocking revelations as witnesses gave evidence. Pillay has claimed he and Jane had been in a long-term relationship.
But Thursday was particularly harrowing for Govindasamy as post-mortem evidence was given in court and he had to absorb the gruesome details of how his family had been killed on September 20.
“I am having sleepless nights. I have to hear the evidence and what he has done. They were my innocent children.”
He added that for one long moment in court this week, the accused “turned and looked me in the eye”.
Giving evidence was eThekwini specialist forensic pathologist Dr Salona Prahladh. The court saw images of the victims as she presented her findings.
Throughout, Pillay’s expression remained impassive. He sat on his hands as each graphic forensic picture was shown on a large screen, glancing at the photos before turning to face forward.
Prahladh said she had been called to the murder scene on September 21, the day after the murders, to estimate time of death and carry out preliminary examinations of the victims.
She was first called to attend when the bodies of Jane and Nikita were discovered and returned later after police found Denisha’s body in a cupboard. Further detailed examination of each victim took place once the bodies were taken to the mortuary.
She said rigor mortis which had set in on the bodies at the scene indicated Denisha had been killed first and stuffed in a cupboard, after which Nikita was murdered as she returned home from school. Jane was the last to die.
Prahladh testified that Jane had abrasions to the neck, cheek and knee as well as a sharp incision behind her ear, which evidence indicated a scalloped edge of a knife may have been used. Jane also had wounds to her hands, indicating she tried to defend herself.
When the body was found, there was a sock stuffed into her mouth.
Nikita was found face down on her bed with abrasions to her neck and lower jaw, indicating strangulation. Evidence suggested she may have been punched in the eye and was pinned to the bed.
During evidence, it was noted that both girls were slight in stature.
After the bodies of Jane and Nikita were found, Denisha was reported missing, but police quickly found her body in a cupboard in the house.
The pathologist testified that Denisha’s hands had been tied behind her back and her clothing was soaked in blood which also matted her hair. There was also much blood found in the cupboard.
Denisha had suffered a number of stab wounds to her neck.
State advocate Cheryl Naidu said this could suggest a frenzied attack. It was also considered that Denisha’s loosely bound hands could have been tied behind her back so her assailant could make her fit in the cupboard.
Prahladh said when she returned after Denisha’s body had been found, she was asked by an officer to examine a possible suspect at the scene. She testified that she had looked at the possible suspect. But she told the officer she only carried out post-mortem investigations and the possible suspect should be taken to a hospital.
Naidu asked her if it was possible to identify that person and, when Prahladh indicated Pillay, there was a murmur from family and friends in the gallery.
Warrant Officer Praveen Sukdeo earlier this week testified that another officer said Pillay was standing outside the scene. This was when police had been called to the house, the day after the killings.
Sukdeo had noticed the accused had scratch marks on his face, neck and hands and testified that he had approached Pillay, who said: “Larney, please find the person who murdered my stekkie and her daughters.”
He had asked Pillay to wait while he found a doctor, but Pillay vanished.
This week, texts between the Jane and Pillay suggested she may have had a second lover.