Reservoir Hills man pleads innocent to mechanic’s murder
Durban - A RESERVOIR Hills man, accused of robbing and killing a mechanic, pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Durban High Court on Monday.
Ashen Vishnuduth, 28, of Stanton Street, was arrested and charged for the murder of Navendran Govender, who died on March 6, 2019.
Vishnuduth was also charged with robbery with aggravating circumstances, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, fraud and escaping from lawful custody.
Govender, 30, a self-employed mechanic and car restoration specialist, operated a home-based business in Orleans Place, Reservoir Hills.
Vishnuduth worked at a car rental company, and bought and sold cars.
The state believes Vishnuduth was aware that Govender ran a successful business and was therefore always in possession of large amounts of cash. He decided to rob and kill Govender.
According to the indictment, presented by senior State advocate Cheryl Naidu, at some time before the day of the killing, Vishnuduth arranged to sell his partner’s Nissan Almera to Govender.
Just after midday on March 6, Vishnuduth, armed with a gun, fetched Govender and took him to his (Vishnuduth’s) home to conclude the sale.
The State believes Vishnuduth robbed Govender at gunpoint of R10 000 cash and two cellphones.
The State believes Vishnuduth then shot Govender three times in the head and/ or face, killing him.
According to the State’s version, Vishnuduth dragged Govender’s body into his vehicle and drove to Giba Gorge in Gweni, Mariannhill, where he disposed of the body. He returned to his home in Reservoir Hills and then fled to Johannesburg.
A post-mortem established Govender had died as a result of a “perforating gunshot wound to the head”.
Vishnuduth pleaded not guilty to all the charges, except for escaping from lawful custody.
In his not guilty plea statement, read by his attorney, Ravindra Maniklall, Vishnuduth denied the allegations set out in the indictment.
He denied he killed Govender intentionally. Instead, he said he acted in "self-defence or private defence”.
With regards to the other charges, he chose not to say anything.
With regards to his guilty plea (escaping from lawful custody) Vishnuduth said that on August 15, 2019, he escaped from Westville Correctional Services Centre, while awaiting trial.
He said this was the result of being refused bail in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.
Vishnuduth said that he was unable to tolerate being bullied, abused and assaulted in prison, which worsened after he was denied bail.
He said he met Deon Perumal in prison and when he realised Perumal was unable to pay his bail, he (Vishnuduth) requested his personal details.
He used the details to make a prison card and to escape from prison.
Naidu said the State did not accept the guilty plea and that some of the material facts in Vishnuduth’s plea were inconsistent with the State’s case.
Judge Jacqueline Henriques entered a plea of not guilty.
Giving evidence for the State, Govender’s neighbour and friend Poovanesan Sodalay testified he drove Govender to Vishnuduth's home on the morning of the killing.
However, Vishnuduth was not home and they returned to their home.
Later that day, Govender’s friend approached him looking for Govender.
"He told me that Naven was not at home and that his cellphone was switched off."
Later that evening, when Govender failed to fetch his girlfriend from work, she went to the police station to report him missing.
Sodalay showed the police where he had taken Govender earlier that morning.
They found the car with Vishnuduth inside.
Vishnuduth claimed he had fetched Govender, given him R20, bought him a Coke and driven him back home.
Sodalay said the next morning, a friend called the mortuary and was told a body that fitted Govender’s description had been found.
"I went to the mortuary with my friend to identify the body. It was Naven.”
Another witness, Calvin Reddy, testified that he saw a green Almera parked near his workplace in Giba Gorge, with the car boot open.
Reddy said as he approached the car, he saw a person standing at the boot. As he drove past, he saw the arms and head of a person dangling from the boot.
He said he drove further up the road, stopped and watched a man drag the body out of the boot and disappear.
Reddy said the man returned, closed the boot and approached him.
“I asked him what was going on and he told me it was his brother who was sick and vomiting. I asked him again, but this time I swore. I told him if his brother was sick, why didn't he take him to the hospital or doctor instead of coming and dumping him here?”
Reddy said he noticed blood on both the man’s arms. He said that the man was perspiring and appeared agitated.
He said the man stepped back and reached towards his back, as if he was reaching for a firearm.
Reddy said he sped off and noticed that the driver was following him. He said that after a short distance he stopped near two women; the driver also stopped but then made a U-turn and drove off.
Reddy returned to the scene and found the body "of an Indian male".
He alerted his manager and the police, who arrived at the scene.
Reddy said that on March 19, he identified the person he had seen on that day during an identity parade. He further pointed him out to the court as being Vishnuduth.
The trial continues.