After shedding tears throughout her trial, former IT teacher Vindra Jaickaran Moodley remained silent, her eyes dry, as she learnt her fate last week.
Moodley, of Hilton, near Pietermaritzburg, was sentenced to 10 years' jail, half of which was suspended for five years on condition she was not convicted of the same offences of fraud or theft during that period.
She was sentenced by the Durban Commercial Crimes Court last Wednesday.
Moodley celebrated her 50th birthday on Saturday.
The mother of three, who has three grandchildren, had earlier pleaded guilty to 73 counts of fraud and one count of misinterpretation.
Moodley had issued fake invoices to defraud Cowan House Preparatory, a private school, from September 2013 until 2015. She was known by the surname Jaickaran while at the school.
She had also let her own child take the fall when she was caught, as she was using his computer to commit her fraud.
Magistrate Judy Naidoo said the offence was of a serious nature as white-collar crimes were becoming prevalent. The sentence, she said, would show that these crimes would not be tolerated.
Naidoo added a guilty plea was not an indicator of remorse when the “writing is on the wall”.
Moodley was still fairly young and the sentence would motivate her rehabilitation, which would enable her to reintegrate back into society, said Naidoo, adding there would be some “light at the end of the tunnel” for her.
The magistrate said a non-custodial sentence would constitute a “mere slap on the wrist” for her serious crimes.
Moodley had told the court her actions were fuelled by the alleged abuse at the hands of her late father, from the age of 5 until she was 15.
During mitigation of sentence at a prior hearing, a then-remorseful-looking Moodley sat weeping in the dock as she told the court of her years of abuse.
“Life at home was unbearable. I witnessed my mum being beaten by my extremely dominant dad. She would also get beaten for her children and as soon as he would walk into the home, she would tell us to disappear.”
“We moved out of our communal home when I was about five. The abuse continued and my dad would not let me go out.“I could not take it any more, so I ran away to my maternal grandmother’s home at 15, but he found me and took me back home.
“In front of 20 family members he brought out a bush knife and sjambok. He beat me till I bled and said he would kill me for running away. I still have the scars.”
Moodley had also claimed she was sexually abused by her father but refused to go into detail.
Trying to escape that painful life, she said, she married the first man that came a long. At the age of 16 she married a man 10 years her senior, hoping for a better life.
“I sadly faced the same life. I thought I would live happily but I was beaten and later chased out the house with my three young sons.
“I never had a voice, same as my mother and took whatever came to me. It was until my mother told me that I had to do something with my life that I decided to complete my matric and study a computer course.”
Moodley said that although she hated her father, when he died in 2012 she felt guilty as she had not done anything to help him.
“I was having nightmares and I did not drink, smoke or do drugs, I needed an outlet to distract me from what I was going through.
“I thought maybe this would be a way out and make me happy. All I needed was a distraction from what was going on in my life as I could not tell anybody what I had been through; I never did.”
Moodley said she needed the comfort from those around her which was why she lied about having cancer.
“I just felt alone and needed some sort of ‘cushioning’ to keep me together.”
Moodley added that she was disgusted by her actions and wanted to repay all the money to the school.
“I’m just so sorry for what I did. I let myself down, I let my children down, who to date have never disrespected me.
“I hurt those closest to me, my best friends and the children at the school, who looked up to me.
“I’m sorry for disappointing everyone who believed in me, trusted and cared for me,” said Moodley.
During the trial, her psychiatrist for the period 1999 to 2003, Dr Stewart Lund, testified that she had a history of depression and suicidal tendencies due to her various issues, including her mother’s death, a fight with a boyfriend and later opening up about the alleged abuse by her father and his death.
But Naidoo said the court was not convinced of this as Moodley had only spoken of the alleged abuse by her dad in 2016 after she had been caught.
Before being taken away to commence her sentence at Westville Prison, Moodley told POST she felt “numb” and would not appeal it.