Retired nurse and community activist Vathaniagee “Jennifer” Pillay, 65 was allegedly stabbed by her unemployed husband Navin Chanderlal. Picture: Supplied.
Retired nurse and community activist Vathaniagee “Jennifer” Pillay, 65 was allegedly stabbed by her unemployed husband Navin Chanderlal. Picture: Supplied.

Psychiatric exam finds man accused of murdering wife 'apsychotic and manipulative'

By Nadia Khan Time of article published Oct 30, 2020

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A medical officer who examined a Chatsworth man accused of killing his wife testified that the accused appeared to be “apsychotic and manipulative”.

This was the evidence of Dr Reshmi Mohanlall, a medical officer in the psychiatric ward at RK Khan Hospital. She was testifying during the trial of Navin Chanderlal, 54, which is being heard in the Durban High Court.

Chanderlal, who is unemployed, was arrested and charged with the murder of Vathaniagee “Jennifer” Pillay, 65, a retired nurse and community activist.

The mother-of-two was found dead on the bathroom floor of her home in Silverglen on December 24, 2018. She shared the house with Chanderlal, whom she married in 2003.

According to the indictment, which was presented by senior State advocate Krishen Shah, Pillay wanted to divorce Chanderlal and move overseas to be with her children. Her son lives in the UK and her daughter in Australia.

“The accused was unhappy about this and decided to kill the deceased. On December 24 and in circumstances unknown to the State, he killed the deceased and left her body in the bathroom of their home.”

A post-mortem noted cause of death as “compression of the neck suspected”.

When the trial started last week, Chanderlal pleaded not guilty to the charge. In a plea explanation read out by his attorney, Chris Gounden, Chanderlal denied that he caused or contributed to Pillay’s death or had planned it.

He claimed that on the day of the incident he was asleep and was woken by a phone call from Pillay’s son, Gino.

When he went looking for her, he noticed that the sliding door was open and the keys were on the gate. However, he could not find Pillay outside and went back inside. She was not in her bedroom. He then saw that the bathroom was ajar and he found Pillay lying motionless on the floor against the bath.

When Gino called again, Chanderlal told him she was dead. Gino told him to press the panic button, which he did.

On Monday, Keith Supersad, a technician at Blue Security, testified that he downloaded the content of the control panel in the house.

He testified that on December 24, the alarm system was activated at 9.53am. However, certain zones, which included the lounge passage, downstairs windows and upstairs passage, were not activated. At 8.09pm the panic button was triggered.

Supersad testified that the sliding, door had been alarmed.

Another witness, Detective Warrant Officer Shadrack Govender, who was the initial investigating officer, testified that when he got to the house, Pillay was lying on her back on the bathroom floor with a shower cable on her chest.

“She was declared deceased by the paramedics prior to my arrival. She was covered with a duvet and she had a shower cable across her chest. I also saw her neck brace behind the toilet pan and the pan was cracked. I also noticed bruising to her neck.”

Govender said he had inspected the entire house and there were no signs of forced entry.

He said Chanderlal was in the bedroom with his brother when he approached him. “We requested his brother to bring him to our offices so we could interview him. At the office, we tried to ask him exactly what went wrong but he did not speak and just had his head down. He was thereafter taken to the hospital by his brother.”

On Tuesday, Mohanlall, said she observed Chanderlal to be unco-operative.

She said when she arrived at the ward she discovered Chanderlal was a known medical patient.

“This meant he had presented to psychiatry before or at some stage.

“On seeing his outpatient card, it was found he had been assessed on November 23, 2018, and was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and was to commence treatment. At the time he felt his wife was deserting him.

“During my interview with the patient he refused to answer any of my questions and only informed me that he had not taken the treatment. The patient was very unco-operative. His brother volunteered the information that he felt well after seeing the doctor in November.”

Mohanlall told the court that Chanderlal had superficial lacerations to his left nostril and to his right upper arm.

She said during the mental state examination Chanderlal was selectively mute.

“He did not answer any questions and chose to answer what he wanted. He chose to speak to me when he wanted.”

Mohanlall testified that Chanderlal appeared to be malingering.

She explained this to be an exaggeration of psychological symptoms for external gain.

“This is when a person has ulterior motives. In this case, he may have been implicated in his wife’s death.”

Mohanlall said while Chanderlal was admitted to the ward he claimed to see the ocean on the floor and hear voices.

“But he could not elaborate who the people behind the voices were, or what they were saying.”

She said that the mental state examination found that he was not psychotic, was asuicidal, euthymic, had poor insight and was guarded and manipulative.”

The State has closed its case.

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