Mariamma Govender was strangled and found dead in her Phoenix home. Picture: Supplied
Mariamma Govender was strangled and found dead in her Phoenix home. Picture: Supplied
Sheldon Naicker leaves the Durban High Court. Picture: POST
Sheldon Naicker leaves the Durban High Court. Picture: POST

Durban - Unhappy with the R400 his 84-year-old grandmother had given him, a young man strangled her before making off with her television set stuffed in a suitcase.

Sheldon Naicker, 21, was found guilty of his grandmother's murder on Thursday and sentenced to 20 years for murder, 10 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances and three years for theft. 

Naicker had pleaded not guilty and told the court through his lawyer Maggie Pillay that while his maternal grandmother, Mariamma Govender, had given him R400, he had asked for more money as he wanted to go to Johannesburg. But she had refused, telling him that he wanted the money for drugs.

Naicker said he had merely “pushed” the elderly woman onto the sofa before leaving with the TV set.

Govender died at her Phoenix home in August last year. The post-mortem examination established the cause of death as “consistent with manual strangulation”, the court heard.

Earlier in the week Naicker sat emotionless in the dock as prosecutor Krishen Shah read out the indictment.

Shah said the incident had taken place at Govender’s Clayfield home on August 8. Her 42-inch flat-screen television and a suitcase were stolen and the next day, Naicker had stolen two cellphones from a car near Botanic Gardens, he said.

On Tuesday, State witness Lynelle Emelee Munsami, Govender’s tenant, said that on the morning she died, her landlady, whom she called “Ma” out of respect, had seen her drying clothes outside and warned her to go back indoors and keep her doors locked.

This was after Govender said she had received a call from her daughter saying that Naicker had “escaped from the rehab”, she said.

“I, in turn, told her she must also go inside and lock the door. A couple hours later I heard Sheldon screaming outside and knocking on Ma’s door. He kept saying, ‘Open the door, I am hungry, Ma’.”

Munsami’s husband, Mervyn Moodley, told Judge President Achmat Jappie that when he and his wife returned home later that evening, he had seen Govender’s clothes still on the line, so he removed them.

“I took off the washing because she would always do the same when we are not home.”

After realising that the padlock on Govender’s gate was missing, he said he began calling for her but she did not reply.

“It was very dark inside, so I went back in my home, got my cellphone and put on the torch. I walked through the kitchen and down a small passage to the lounge. I found Ma lying flat on her face on the sofa, her right arm hanging to the floor, and her left arm bent across her back. I placed my hand on her back, and I didn’t feel any breathing movement; her body was cold. I ran out the house screaming.”

Sheldon Naicker leaves the Durban High Court. Picture: POST

Another State witness Emmanuel Pillay, 28, told the court he had met Naicker at a rehabilitation centre in eMkhomazi (Umkomaas) last year. He said they plotted their “escape”, climbed over two fences and were free.

The next morning they sold some of their clothes and bought two train tickets to Durban.

“When we reached Durban, we sold more clothes, then walked to a nearby taxi rank, bought two ‘loops’ of drugs, sugars. We smoked them, went back to the station, and bought two train tickets to Phoenix train station.”

Emmanuel testified that while walking along a road later, Naicker pointed out a yellow house, saying that it was his grandmother’s home.

He said he was told to wait for him at a nearby sports ground, but after an hour he decided to go and look for him at the house.

“I called his name and whistled a couple of times. He popped his head out of the door, and gave me hand signals to go back, so I walked back to the grounds, but stood on the edge so I could see if he was returning. A few minutes later I saw him walking up the road with a suitcase.”

When he caught up with him, Naicker had looked “shocked” and kept looking around, he said.

“He pulled out R400 from the front of his pants and showed me. I asked him about the TV which I could see through the sides of the suitcase. He said his granny only gave him R400, so he would have to sell the TV for food and to go to Johannesburg.”

Emmanuel said that as they were walking down the railway line, Naicker had told him he had done “something bad”. “He said he did not know if his granny was dead or alive. I asked him what do you mean. He became angry and said he did not want to talk about it, and ‘let’s go smoke’.”

Emmanuel said they then went to a place where Naicker bought 10 ‘caps’ of drugs and smoked three.

They then went “to town” where Naicker sold the TV for R800, even though he had wanted R1 200.

The pair ate and booked into a shelter for the night.

The next day, when Emmanuel told his friend he was missing his two children, he said Naicker gave him R20.

“I then made a phone call to one of my girlfriends. I told him (Naicker) I had a white ‘sugar mummy’ and she was going to meet me back at the train station in Durban. He did not believe me, so he came with me.

“When we arrived I introduced them, and told her we ran away from the rehab together. We decided we will go spend the day at Botanical Gardens. When we arrived, my girlfriend had given me the car keys to keep in my pocket after locking the car,” he said.

He said he removed his trousers and had lain on the grass in his shorts for a while, before realising the keys were missing and Naicker was gone.

His girlfriend later told him her two cellphones which she had in the car were missing, he said.

“When I went back to find Sheldon, he was gone. That was the last time I saw him, until today in court.”

Naicker’s mother Yano, who lives in Johannesburg, was in court on Monday.

She told POST she and her family were deeply saddened by the killing and the arrest of her son.

“That was my mother and this is my son, I don’t know how to react,” she said. “It is a really difficult time for our family My mother took him in, they were very close, and she always felt sympathy for him, being her grandchild ... He must be punished, but we also hope he can get rehabilitated and treated for his condition.”