Durban - A braai held to celebrate a birthday turned deadly when two friends kept arguing, the Durban Magistrate’s Court heard on Monday.
The final hours of Durban man Philendran Naidoo’s life was revealed during the start of the murder trial.
His friend, Nerasen Govender, who was arrested hours after the incident in June last year, sat in the dock and listened intently as witnesses described what happened that night.
His lawyer claims Govender was heading towards the braai stand with the knife in his hand when Naidoo walked towards him “and unknowingly walked into the knife and got stabbed”.
Naidoo, 35, had joined three other friends for the June 7 braai at a home in Avoca, before leaving the party in an ambulance after 1am, fighting for his life after being stabbed.
At the time, police were told he had accidentally fallen on a braai fork. However, on Monday a witness testified that there was no braai fork around when the incident occurred.
State witness Leon Audh, a mutual friend of Naidoo and Govender, and a police warrant officer in Durban, told the court the men had been arguing the entire night.
“I got to the party around 9.30pm, after church. When I arrived, I noticed things were already tense, and soon learned that Phil and Nerasen had been arguing.
"The accused (Govender) accused the deceased (Naidoo) of causing some sort of conflict among our group of friends in the past.
"Myself and Marseelan (who was hosting the braai) had calmed the situation and the boys made up, but as the night progressed they kept arguing, and we kept cooling down the situation,” he said.
Audh, who admitted there was alcohol at the party, said that during the final clash, which occurred at around 1am, both Naidoo and Govender got physical.
“When they started arguing again, Marseelan and I stepped in the middle. I was with (Govender), restraining him by holding his shirt and keeping him on one side, and Marseelan was with Phil doing the same.
“I heard the accused yell, ‘See what I got here’, and I noticed a glimpse of a small silver blade shaped like a claw in his right hand, and I shouted, ‘Put that thing away’.
"At the same time, Phil started provoking the accused from the other side, so I took my hands off Govender’s shirt, turned to Marseelan to ask if he was okay, and also to ask him to calm Phil down.
“It was then that Govender ran past me, past Marseelan and approached Naidoo. Within a second or so he moved away, and I heard Marseelan ask, ‘What did you do?’ Naidoo went quiet, and moments later collapsed on to his back.
“When we rushed to help him, we noticed him bleeding, so we called the ambulance and tried to stabilise him with a towel while we waited.”
Audh said that when his friend was taken away in the ambulance, he made his way home. He awoke six hours later to calls from his cousin and a mutual friend saying they had heard that Naidoo had tripped on a braai fork and died.
“I immediately phoned SAPS Greenwood Park and asked if a case had been opened. I was told an inquest docket was open, so I made my way to the police station just after 9am to give a statement,” Audh said.
During cross-examination, defence attorney Ravindra Maniklall asked Audh why, as an officer, he had not arrested Govender when the incident occurred.
Audh replied that he knew the accused, where he worked and lived, as well as his whereabouts, and also had his contact details.
He added that he had remained at the scene of the crime while Naidoo was still alive.
Maniklall also asked if Audh was aware that the braai took place on a Tuesday, a day Govender fasted, and put it to him that Naidoo might have stumbled into a knife due to the alcohol he consumed that night.
“The accused fasts on a Tuesday and had been abstaining from meat. He chose to wait until midnight to have his meal.
“As it was approaching midnight, he decided to take some meat out and warm it on the braai stand using a knife.
“As the accused was walking towards the braai stand with the knife in his hand, the deceased walked towards him and unknowingly walked into the knife and got stabbed,” he said.
Maniklall further claimed that Naidoo had poured alcohol over the heads of Govender and another friend earlier in the night.