Cape Town - Four years after Taariq Phillips was accused of the murder of his girlfriend Sharisha Chauhan he is finally behind bars.
The trial, which started in 2014, came to an emotional climax in the Western Cape High Court this week when Phillips was handed a 10-year prison sentence.
Judge Lee Bozalek described Phillips as having “the hallmarks of a narcissistic personality”, and also denied Phillips leave to appeal.
He was found not guilty of murder, but he was found guilty of the double rape of Chauhan.
Phillips and Chauhan were part of a group of friends who attended a rave party at La Bac Estate in Paarl on New Year’s Eve 2013 when she became ill in the early hours of January 1, 2014.
Chauhan was taken to the couple’s tent, and after the pair were alone for some time, Chauhan started having seizures.
She was transported to the Paarl Medi-Clinic where she died later on New Year’s Day.
There were tears from both families as the sentence was read out.
Chauhan’s mother, Minakshi Deeva, hunched over and cried aloud in the courtroom.
The family and friends of Phillips also could also not contain their emotions, and there was much weeping and hugging.
The State had asked for an 18-year jail term, but Judge Bozalek took into account that Phillips had no previous convictions and that he obtained an international welding qualification while the trial was on.
Phillips was taken to task for his refusal to testify, and the judge said that his refusal meant that he had not taken the court into his confidence.
Phillips’ version of the events of that night was that the friends had taken a cocktail of drugs - LSD and MDMA - and Chauhan became sexually aroused, but he had refused her request for sex.
“Only two people can speak about what precisely happened in that tent during the critical one-hour period after the deceased became ill. I am aware that the consumption of drugs played a key role in the deceased’s death,” said the judge.
In a surprise twist, Phillips took the stand in mitigation of sentence to testify to his character to convince the court that he was not a rapist and a murderer. He also told the court that he acted on advice from his legal representative at the time, advocate Joey Moses, not to testify.
According to a statement by Phillips, he waited for an hour to pass in the hope that Chauhan’s seizures would stop.
“This rape was very serious. Sharisha Chauhan was raped at a time when she needed medical attention. Taariq Phillips wanted sexual gratification. He was able to satisfy his desires with someone who had lost all inhibitions.”
Judge Bozalek was also not convinced that it was the first time that Phillips had consumed drugs.
“Rape is a plague in South Africa. Society expects the courts to impose the maximum sentence. I feel that a life sentence would be wholly disproportionate. I am not convinced that the accused showed true remorse,” he said.