Ashen Vishnudath in the Durban High Court. Picture: Chanelle Lutchman
Ashen Vishnudath in the Durban High Court. Picture: Chanelle Lutchman

Murder accused mechanic claims he was gripped by panic and fear after friend killed during tussle

By Mervyn Naidoo Time of article published Apr 18, 2021

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Durban - A Reservoir Hills man, who allegedly shot dead his friend “in cold blood”, struggled to establish his version of events during cross-examination at the Durban High Court on Friday.

Ashen Vishnudath, a mechanic, has been charged with the March 2019 murder of Navandren Govender, also a mechanic, who specialised in restoring vehicles.

Vishnuduth told the court he was in a “tussle” with Govender, who drew a firearm, while they tried to conclude a car deal between themselves.

Three shots went off during the tussle inside the for sale Nissan Almera, which was parked outside Vishundath’s Stanton Street home in Reservoir Hills.

The bullets all hit Govender’s head, near his left ear.

Vishnuduth loaded Govender’s body in the car’s boot before dumping him at the Giba Gorge Mountain Bike Park in Pinetown.

He eventually went to the police, after driving off to Joburg in the Almera, fitted with falsified number plates, to “clear his mind” after Govender’s death.

Vishnudath was denied bail.

While held at the Westville Prison, awaiting his trial, Vishnudath’s father Raj and two other men (Sudeshan Govender and Tashlin Israel) allegedly secured his release in August 2019 by using forged documents.

His freedom only lasted two months as the investigating officer in the matter, Warrant Officer Bob Pillay, and his team of detectives from the KZN Provincial Investigation Unit, re-arrested him in Umbilo.

The matter of Raj, Sudeshan Govender and Israel for defeating the ends of justice is back in court next month.

Vishnudath will be in the witness box on Monday when senior state advocate Cheryl Naidu will continue her cross examination of him.

The State alleges that Vishnudath’s motive for the killing was robbery as he knew Govender always carried large sums of cash, and selling the car was just a ruse.

Vishnudath stood by his version on Friday that Govender was the one who pulled the trigger and he was not in his right frame of mind after the death of his friend.

By then he was gripped by “panic” and “fear”, “my friend was killed during the tussle”.

Naidu at various times told Vishnudath that he was attempting to mislead the court and that Govender’s killing was planned, which he refuted.

As Vishnudath drove the car with Govender’s body in the boot, he stopped the vehicle near the corner of Riddick and Mountbatten Drive in Reservoir Hills.

He said he noticed the gun on the seat, got out and disposed of it in the nearby stream.

“I wasn’t thinking straight (sic), I threw the gun away because I was panicked and in fear.

“It was the first time in my life I got involved with something like this.”

Vishnudath said he then drove aimlessly and ended up in the Marianhill area.

While there he contemplated visiting an uncle but changed his mind because of the body in his car and he did not enjoy good relations with the relative.

He then took the gravel road to the Giba Gorge area to “sit and think”.

He knew the area well because he worked there previously.

Vishnudath realised he needed to get rid of the body and while driving on the gravel road, he stopped to off-load it.

As he was about to dump the body down a small embankment on the roadside, a passing motorist noticed him and asked: “What are you doing?”

“My brother is sick and vomiting,” was Vishnudath’s panicked response.

Vishnudath said the motorist lied when he testified previously that he threatened him when they stopped at a stop street, and gestured as if he was reaching for a gun.

He insisted that he did not have a gun in his possession.

After driving back to Reservoir Hills, he felt a bit “edgy”. He bought some Xanax pills to help him cope with his anxiety.

By then he changed out of his “smelly” blood soaked clothes. He had a spare set of clothing in a gym-bag, in the car’s boot.

But he could not remember what happened to the “dirty” clothes he removed.

Vishnudath said he also wiped some blood off the car before driving to Joburg, but got someone to clean it thoroughly when stopped in Pietermaritzburg.

He also got the person to change the vehicle’s number plates as he didn’t want to be traced.

By the time he reached Ladysmith, Vishnudath said he regained his normal senses.

Naidu insisted Vishnudath had a complete presence of mind in the aftermath to the shooting, and one such instance was when he decided to stop in a secluded area, got out and got rid of the firearm.

She said Vishnudath’s decision not to go to his uncle’s house demonstrated that he was “thinking straight”.

“You were not panicked, you were firmly in control of the situation that’s why he didn’t dump the body just anywhere, but chose an ideal spot.

“That showed a clear intention.”

Naidu said when Vishnudath told the passing motorist that his “brother was sick”, it showed he was in a “fully conscious state”.

She said he disposed of the bloodied clothing afterwards to prevent detection and having the car washed and replacing the number plates indicated that he had a “well reasoned plan”.

Sunday Tribune

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