Durban - Hilton Shaw, the man acquitted on appeal of the murder of his wife, Susan, who died violently at a remote country estate in KwaZulu-Natal, is suing authorities for R9.4 million.
The civil trial began in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Monday before Judge Peter Olsen.
Shaw was found guilty in 2009 of shooting his wife, but was acquitted of her murder, on appeal, in 2011.
He is now claiming damages from the KZN director of public prosecutions and the ministers of Justice and Police for his unlawful arrest and malicious prosecution in the amount of R9 424 800.
In court papers, Shaw claims the investigation against him was “characterised by significant shortcomings”.
He further alleges that his prosecution “maliciously” proceeded despite there being no witnesses as well as “clear indications arising from objective forensic evidence” that he was not responsible for shooting his wife.
Shaw claims the evidence of Doris Ndlovu, who was 600m away across the lake from the Shaw’s property, for example, was not credible, because her testimony in court differed from that of her police statement.
She said in court that she had seen Shaw walk down to the lake and then back to his house, but made no mention of this in her statement.
Shaw claims that weight was improperly attached to Ndlovu’s evidence, as an inspection in-loco by both State and defence indicated that one could not identify a person by gender or race from where Ndlovu was standing.
Shaw claims the investigating officer gave “blatantly perjured evidence” at his 2007 bail application about the merits of the State’s case, as a result of which bail was refused.
He was refused bail four times and served six months in custody before being granted bail on appeal to the high court.
Shaw says that because of his wrongful arrest, detention and trial, his constitutional rights were violated and he endured “pain, loss of amenities of life, shock, extreme humiliation, grave infringement of his dignity, bodily and psychological integrity, health and physical and mental well-being”.
He was prevented from working full-time, and had to incur legal costs because of his “unlawful arrest, detention and malicious prosecution”.
He maintains he still suffers from stress, and part of his claim is for past and future medical expenses, including psychotherapy.
Shaw was jailed for 12 years by Judge Vivienne Niles-Duner on June 15, 2009.
She found it was “overwhelmingly probable” that the couple had struggled and that Shaw had shot his wife, the bullet entering her body just above her right armpit.
Niles-Duner rejected Shaw’s suggestion that his wife committed suicide or that she was attacked by an intruder on June 3, 2007, at the home at Lake Lyndhurst estate, Fort Nottingham.
But on July 19, 2011, KwaZulu-Natal Judge President Chiman Patel, Judge Dhaya Pillay and Judge Graham Lopes disagreed and set Shaw free.
In their opinion, they said it was a “real possiblity” that Susan Shaw committed suicide because she’d tried twice before to take her own life, and had consulted a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist for depression.
The appeal court, however, agreed that the “intruder theory was weak” because nothing was missing from the house, and because the “gruelling terrain” counted against the theory.
Shaw claimed at his trial he had left the house for “10 to 15 minutes” and on his return saw Susan lying face down on the veranda. He said his “first assumption” was that his wife had committed suicide, but he later thought it possible that she had been murdered by an intruder with his 9mm pistol.
The State is opposing Shaw’s application.