Wife speaks out after Rajivee Soni's conviction
Last week, that dream became a reality when Pietermaritzburg businessman Rajivee Soni was convicted of the murder (and various other counts, including assault and conspiracy) of her husband, Dr Bhavish Sewram, who was gunned down by a hit man outside his surgery in Chota Motala Road on the night of May 13, 2013.
Sentencing on the matter was postponed to October 26 for Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Jacqueline Hendriques to deliberate on the matter, after Soni's legal team argued that his position as the primary caregiver for his 11-year-old daughter had to be taken into account.
The prosecutor, advocate Johann du Toit, said the fate of Sewram’s family was not taken into account when Soni put his plan into action.
“Soni did not consider anybody else in all of this, besides his ego that fuelled him time and time again to embark on his campaign against Sewram, and to eventually plan and execute his murder,” said Du Toit.
Yuvadia Sewram, speaking after the adjournment, said it saddened her as a mother to see that Soni was using his innocent daughter to plead for leniency “for such a heinous crime that he intentionally orchestrated”.
“Soni failed to take into account the consequences of his actions - that many lives and family units would be affected. It is unfair and unacceptable to see a convicted murderer plead for a lighter sentence. I am confident he will get his dues.”
The trial, which lasted five years, had all the ingredients of a spicy legal soap opera with its tragic roots in a love triangle.
State witnesses testified that an alleged “flirtation” between Sewram and Soni's wife, Kerusha, saw Soni embark on an elaborate scheme to run Sewram out of town, and, when that failed, he turned to murder.
Before his murder, Sewram became the victim of a malicious campaign to ruin his reputation by having false sexual assault charges laid against him, and he also endured threats and intimidation.
The court heard evidence that those carrying out a vendetta on Soni's orders were dirty policemen.
One of them, Sugen Naidoo, described himself as a “rogue” policeman and former cocaine addict. He admitted he had accepted bribes, and that he was involved in a number of plots to frame Sewram by planting drugs in his surgery and in opening false cases of sexual assault against him.
Naidoo testified that he and other policemen were involved in acts of vandalism in which graffiti was painted on the walls of the doctor's surgery, and at his home. The doctor was also shot at with paint-ball guns. He said Soni had friends in high places, including high-ranking police officials Brigadier Francis Bantham and (now retired) Colonel Pipes Haffajee.
Neither of them testified in the case, but the former head of the KZN anti-corruption task team, Colonel Clarence Jones, was called to give evidence on behalf of the defence. He denied that he and a colleague had been responsible for trying to intimidate a key witness, Mlungisi Sithebe, as Sithebe said he was.
Jones said he did not know Soni and had no motive to act on his behalf.
The stop-start trial was peppered with allegations of witness tampering.
At one stage, Sugen Naidoo alleged he and his family were afraid for their lives and the court ordered the police to give them protection.
Two policemen, who were due to testify for the prosecution about the alleged paint-ball attack on the doctor, retracted their statements and did not give evidence after Soni's lawyer claimed they had been unduly influenced by the investigators in the case in making their original statements.
Another potential prosecution witness and policeman, Daryl Gounder, was arrested in a controversial sting operation after Soni accused him of trying to extort a bribe from him.
Gounder had been due to testify in relation to one of the alleged false sexual assault charges opened against the doctor, and claimed he had been “set up” by Soni.
During the trial Sithebe died of natural causes, but not before he had testified.
Sithebe said a few months before the doctor was murdered, he had been approached by Soni to kill him, but he refused and warned the doctor.
Soni was arrested and charged with Sewram's murder in August, 2013.
Already convicted of the doctor's murder by late 2015 - before Soni's trial started - were a former city policeman, Brian Treasurer, the self-confessed gunman who killed the doctor, Sabelo Dlamini (currently serving 25 years in prison), and a “go-between”, Mfaniseni Nxumalo, who was also jailed for life.
Soni has continued to strongly deny that he was behind the doctor's murder.
He said they had made up their differences several months before Sewram was killed.