Family’s 9-year quest for justice

By Natasha Prince Time of article published Oct 1, 2014

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Cape Town - A family’s legal fight to see the man who shot dead their daughter put behind bars will enter its 10th year next year. They have spent hundreds of thousands of rand to secure a murder conviction via private prosecution, a South African first.

Yunus Asmall and his wife, Sara, of the Asmall’s chain of clothing stores in Pietermaritzburg, are now one chapter away from ensuring that Faizel Hendricks, the boyfriend of their daughter, Rochelle Naidoo, 27, is put behind bars for lying when he said he had nothing to do with her murder.

“We’ll have the patience, we waited nine years, a few months won’t make a difference,” said Sara Asmall on Tuesday.

Hendricks claimed he was in Naidoo’s Palm Mews flat in Woodstock on June 28, 2005, when he saw her grab his unlicensed .38 Special revolver, and shoot herself.

In July, magistrate Michelle Adams convicted him of murdering Naidoo at her flat.

“The accused declined to testify. That is his right. It has also left numerous unanswered questions. The only conclusion reached is that Hendricks assaulted his girlfriend before he pulled the trigger. The accused is found guilty as charged beyond a reasonable doubt,’’ said Adams at the time.

Naidoo, formerly of Pietermaritzburg, ran the boutique, Jeans Junction, in Cape Town.

Her family has encountered numerous obstacles over the years in the pursuit of justice.

On Tuesday the case was postponed to January 28.

Outside court, Sara said waiting a few more months “wouldn’t make too much of a difference”.

She and her husband, who live in Pietermaritzburg, made yet another trip to Cape Town to face their daughter’s killer in court.

Naidoo and Hendricks were romantically involved from 2002 until she died.

At the time, Hendricks was arrested and charged with Naidoo’s murder, but he pleaded not guilty and the case was later withdrawn by the director of public prosecutions because the evidence was not strong enough to secure a conviction.

A judicial inquest followed in 2008 when it was suggested Naidoo could have committed suicide, but the inquest determined that the cause of death was not clear.

Her parents were adamant that their daughter had not taken her own life.

It was Hendricks’s case that he had been in Naidoo’s flat when he saw her grab his unlicensed .38 Special Revolver, put the gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger.

They had apparently been seen arguing earlier.

Following the inquest, the Asmalls launched the private prosecution.

Private prosecutions refer to criminal cases initiated by individuals or an organisation and happens after the director of public prosecutions issues a certificate for the individual or the organisation to privately prosecute.

Naidoo’s parents would have had to pay a substantial amount of money - according to legal experts - for the private prosecution to proceed.

They paid a deposit to secure the use of the court and the equipment, instructed Durban senior counsel Gideon Scheltema to prosecute the case, and sought the opinion of Durban ballistics expert Jacobus Steyl and forensic expert Reggie Perumal to prove that something sinister happened to their daughter.

According to Steyl’s evidence, before Naidoo was shot, Hendricks assaulted her by using blunt force to her mouth.

Hendricks testified at the inquest but did not testify during the trial.

Naidoo’s family expected sentencing proceedings to start on Tuesday, but instead, the court heard that there were two reports outstanding - a report from Social Welfare and a probation report from Correctional Services.

Scheltema argued there was “prejudice all round” to both the accused, Hendricks, and Naidoo’s family, who had travelled far.

“It’s been more than nine years since the death of the deceased… it’s in the interest of justice that this matter be finalised without delay,” he said.

Adams noted that a letter had been received to say that due to systematic difficulties the probation officer could not complete the report and ordered that all reports be handed to the relevant parties by noon on November 21.

She postponed the sentencing proceedings to January 28.

Outside the court, Sara Asmall said they were not happy that the matter had not yet been finalised, but that they were prepared to wait.

Hendricks is free on a warning until then.

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Cape Argus

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