FROM left, Constable Tristan Pillay, attorney Ravindra Maniklall and Warrant Officer Theagasen Naidoo, outside the Durban High Court on Monday. Nadia Khan
FROM left, Constable Tristan Pillay, attorney Ravindra Maniklall and Warrant Officer Theagasen Naidoo, outside the Durban High Court on Monday. Nadia Khan

Durban police officers not guilty in man’s kidnapping, killing

By Nadia Khan Time of article published Sep 24, 2021

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Durban - TWO Phoenix policemen have been found not guilty of killing a Phoenix man. But Judge Bruce Bedderson, sitting in the Durban High Court, was critical of the manner in which they conducted themselves.

Warrant Officer Theagasen Naidoo, 47, of Stoneham Drive, and Constable Tristan Pillay, 33, of Eastbury, both of Phoenix, were found not guilty of killing Seelan Pillay. The victim was 46 years old when he died on May 12, 2019.

Two other Phoenix men, brothers, Anben “Fat Cat” Chinsamy, 48, of Ravenstone Place, and Sugendran “Shoes” Chinsamy, 32, of Treehaven Place, were co-accused in the matter.

They were found guilty of murder and are on bail awaiting sentencing.

Pillay, of Grassfern Road, in Phoenix, died after he was set alight on May 10, 2019. He was badly burnt and died in hospital two days later. According to the post-mortem results, the cause of death was “burns over 80% of total body surface area with inhalation burns”.

The policemen, represented by attorney Ravindra Maniklall, and the brothers, represented by attorney Teslyn David, pleaded not guilty.

It emerged in court that Anben suspected Pillay of stealing his grass-cutting machine. He sought the help of the police to get Pillay to his home.

The two policemen fetched Pillay from his home on the pretext that he was under arrest. However, instead of taking him to the police station, they took him to Anben’s home.

According to evidence led by Cheryl Naidu, a senior State advocate, when the two policemen left, Anben assaulted Pillay. Later his brother arrived and joined in the attack.

At some point, Anben poured petrol over Pillay. Using a lit piece of toilet paper, he set Pillay alight. The brothers subsequently took Pillay to the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hospital where he died.

Delivering his judgment, Judge Bedderson said he found the attack to be premeditated. He was satisfied that the state had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.

However, he expressed “dismay” at the conduct of the two policemen on the day of the incident as well as their decision not to testify.

“The failure to do so (testify), says a lot. The accused are well-known policemen in the area and know the community. They released a person, suspected of theft, into the custody of the complainant (Anben). It does not hold well for the accused.”

However, Judge Bedderson added there was no evidence to suggest the policemen knew Pillay would suffer the fate he did. As a result, he found both men not guilty.

Following the judgment, Naidoo said: “This has been a long road for my family and I. For three months, I was locked up and we had no money at home. My family were suffering. I’m glad that after almost two and a half years, I can proceed with my life. I also want people to know that I am not guilty. People were commenting on social media and judging our characters. It was hurtful to read this. Now I want to put all of this behind me.”

Tristan said: “I feel joy in my heart as I knew I was innocent. The case has caused a lot of damage, financially and emotionally. My name was tarnished in the community and my career growth was affected. I thank God and our attorney, Mr Manikall, for his hard work.”

Meanwhile, Sandra Pillay, the dead man’s sister, said: “It has been a heart-breaking and long, hard road for my family, especially my 80-year-old mother. Even though they did not show remorse by apologising to us, we are happy to have some closure and can start to heal. But there should have been some consequences for the police officers. They could have saved my brother's life.”

Seelan Pillay. Supplied
FROM left, Constable Tristan Pillay, attorney Ravindra Maniklall and Warrant Officer Theagasen Naidoo, outside the Durban High Court on Monday. | Nadia Khan

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