A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced a 73-year-old Vietnam-born Australian woman to death for trafficking heroin hidden in bars of soap.

Pretoria -

An electrician arrested for the murder of his girlfriend who was found in the bathroom of their home with a syringe-needle in her mouth and a used syringe next to her, is claiming about R1.4 million from the government for unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution.

Jacques Morne Oosthuizen, 45, now of Bloemfontein, said in papers before the Pretoria High Court that he was arrested for no reason and without being given the opportunity to explain that he was not the killer of Elaine Smith.

He was arrested on September 29, 2006, at his Meyerton home and kept in custody for six months before he was released on R2 000 bail.

Following several court appearances, the case was withdrawn 17 months later.

He is claiming damages from the minister of police for unlawful arrest and detention and from the minister of justice and the director of public prosecutions for malicious prosecution.

Oosthuizen said he found Smith dead in the bathroom when he got home. But when the police arrived, they arrested him for her murder.

He said that was based on them finding a small brown bottle outside the boundary wall to their home.

According to the police, somebody dumped the bottle there and they suspected that Oosthuizen had poisoned his girlfriend.

He was detained at the Meyerton police station for the weekend and subsequently denied bail which was opposed by the police.

After numerous court postponements he was eventually released on bail in March 2007.

Oosthuizen said because the State could not get its house in order, he lost his job as an electrician. He also lost his vehicle and furniture, which were repossessed because he could not meet the monthly payments while in custody.

At the time of his arrest, Oosthuizen said the police never questioned him or gave him the opportunity to explain himself. According to him, they did not have any evidence to suspect him of the killing.

Oosthuizen said it was a traumatic time for him, as he had never clashed with the law before.

He had an ulcer and a heart problem, conditions aggravated by his arrest and detention.

He also claimed that he was assaulted by fellow inmates while in prison. He said the cell monitor robbed him of his Rolex watch, ring and a pair of shoes.

He also claimed that his clothes were stolen and he had to give his food to fellow inmates.

Oosthuizen said if the police and prosecution authorities had bothered to evaluate what they regarded to be the evidence against him, they would have realised that he was not the culprit.

He is battling to find work, he says, as newspapers reported on the case and prospective employers are not keen on employing him when they realise he had been accused of murder.

Defending the matter, the police and prosecution authorities simply noted a blanket denial and said Oosthuizen should prove his case in court. The matter is expected to go on trial later this year.

Pretoria News