I did not kill my friend, says murder accused Ashen Vishnudath
Durban - Ashen Vishnudath, who is on trial for the alleged killing of a mechanic, has denied being responsible for his death.
Vishnudath, 29, of Reservoir Hills, started his evidence-in-chief at the Durban High Court.
According to the State, represented by senior advocate Cheryl Naidu, Vishnudath allegedly fetched Govender from his home, shot him three times, and disposed of his body by throwing it off Giba Gorge in Marianhill on March 6, 2019.
Govender bought and sold cars and was known to often have large amounts of cash in his possession. The State alleged that for this reason, Vishnudath devised a plan to rob and kill Govender.
Vishnudath was also charged with escaping from lawful custody, after he allegedly stole the identity of another prisoner. He then allegedly used the inmate’s details to get bail and escaped from Westville Prison in August 2019.
He was arrested two months later by Detective Warrant Officer Bob Pillay of the Provincial Investigations Unit and his team at a hideout in Umbilo.
Last Wednesday, Vishnudath, who is represented by attorney Ravindra Maniklal, testified that Govender was his friend and work colleague and that he would never have killed him. He said they both shared the same type of work and would often help each other if one or the other was overloaded with work.
Vishnudath testified that Govender was going to buy a Nissan Almera from him. He said his wife owned the car and they wanted to sell it to buy a BMW.
He said that before March 6, 2019, he and Govender had discussed the sale of the car and agreed that Govender would pay R15 000.
Vishnudath said he had only agreed because Govender said he would also pay him R8 000 for the outstanding balance of a BMW he bought from him a year earlier.
He testified that on March 6, he went to Govender’s home, where they discussed the sale and that Govender would pay him R23 000 for the Almera and the amount he owed.
Vishnudath said he sat in the back seat while Govender test-drove the car from his home in Orleans Place to Vishnudath’s work premises in Stanton Street. The accused and his family lived at another property on Stanton Street.
Vishnudath said when they arrived in Stanton Street, he removed the goods from the front seat and went inside to fetch the transfer papers for the car. He returned to the car and while Vishnudath was filling out the sale agreement, they smoked rock (crack cocaine).
He said Govender then told him he would pay some of the money the same day and would pay the remainder once the vehicle was sold. Vishnudath was unhappy with this. He said he wanted the full payment of R23 000 and they began arguing.
“At that stage I did not agree, knowing I would wait another year for the balance to be paid.”
Vishudath testified that Govender was in the driver’s seat and that he withdrew a firearm with his left hand and pointed it at him.
“We were arguing at that stage. I asked him what he was doing and he said he would shoot me. Things started getting intense and then he pulled the hammer of the revolver back with his right hand.”
Vishnudath said they tussled for the firearm and he heard two shots.
“It all happened in less than a minute. I called out for him, but he never answered me. He was slumped forward. I saw he was shot. Blood was oozing from his head.”
Vishnudath said he panicked and pulled Govender out of the car and on to the floor. He then placed him in the boot.
He said he cleaned the driver’s side and threw water on the floor. He said he drove to Marianhill and threw Govender’s body on the side of a dusty road before driving off. Along the way, he disposed of the firearm.
Vishnudath said he returned to Stanton Street. Later, while parked on the pavement near his home, a policeman approached and asked if I knew where Govender was.
“I told them I was unaware. I was scared to tell them what happened. They then told me to come with them to Naven’s house. I went there and I spoke to Naven’s dad.”
Afterwards he returned to his work premises, took some Xanax, and started driving again. Vishnudath said he did not realise how far he had driven until he reached Ladysmith. He said he continued to drive to Johannesburg.
“I called my father when I arrived and he told me that the cops were there and wanted to see me. I told him what happened and he told me the best thing to do is to come back and sort out the problem.”
Vishnudath said he dropped the vehicle off at a relative’s house and took a taxi back to Durban, where he handed himself over to the police.
At the start of cross-examination by the State, an inspection-in-loco was conducted at the SAPS Vehicle Pound in Isipingo on Thursday.
Vishnudath was asked to demonstrate the tussle between him and Govender in the car.
Naidu said it did not make sense for Govender, who was right-handed, to use his left hand to point the firearm as he was seated in the driver’s seat.
She said during the inspection, Vishnudath said he had overpowered Govender, as he was bigger, and that he managed to turn the gun away from him.
Naidu said: “You were stronger and able to grasp his hand and the firearm. You had control of the situation, so what prevented you from taking the firearm away? Also, in your version, Govender was using his left hand, not his dominant hand.”
Naidu said when Govender’s father testified, he said that his son did not smoke and that he disliked the smell of cigarettes. Vishnudath agreed.
“Naven did not smoke cigarettes but he did smoke rock occasionally.”
Naidu told Vishnudath that he included that in his statement to create a bad impression of Govender.
She said Vishnudath had no intention of selling the vehicle and that his intention was to rob and kill Govender.
During the inspection, the transfer of vehicle form was found in the car. Vishnudath said it was the same form.
Naidu said: “You simply shot him. You said everything had blood in the car, but the yellow paper did not have a tinkle of blood on it. That is because the yellow document never came out at all.”
The trial continues.