Trail of DEATH

Pa­tel on trial for wife’s and mother’s mur­ders, sus­pi­cion over fa­ther’s death, fear­ful brother flees to UK

CityPress - - News - CH­ESTER MAKANA news@city­press.co.za

Those who live in the up-mar­ket sub­urb of Nir­vana in Polok­wane, Lim­popo, speak in hushed tones about the spine-chill­ing case of lo­cal busi­ness­man Rameez Pa­tel. On Mon­day, 32-year-old Pa­tel ap­peared in the Polok­wane Mag­is­trates’ Court, hav­ing been charged with the mur­der of his mother, who was fa­tally shot three weeks ago.

The court then heard that he had to race to the High Court in Polok­wane, where his trial for the 2015 mur­der of his wife, Fa­tima, was due to con­tinue.

This week, his neigh­bours said that devel­op­ments in court had struck fear in them and they were re­luc­tant to men­tion his name in the pres­ence of strangers.

They are also won­der­ing what hap­pened to Pa­tel’s fa­ther, Feroz, who was mur­dered in Au­gust last year in what po­lice ini­tially sus­pected to be an at­tempted rob­bery.

They say this could ex­plain why Pa­tel’s brother has fled to Lon­don.

“We are strug­gling to be­lieve that he is in­volved, but the fact that his brother ran away raises more ques­tions,” said one woman, who asked not to be named.

His for­mer neigh­bour at the apart­ment where Pa­tel’s wife was killed, also re­fused to talk about him.

“We are scared. We don’t know which story to trust. Just leave us out of this, we don’t need trou­ble,” she said.

An­other neigh­bour hoped the trial would an­swer their ques­tions be­cause “we want to know”. Said an­other: “This is a drama. Ev­ery­one is scared to talk about the Pa­tels, es­pe­cially when their rel­a­tives and friends are around.”

This week, the high court heard how Pa­tel beat the face of his wife and mother of his three small chil­dren with a cricket bat and stran­gled her to death in their apart­ment.

No ev­i­dence was led in the lo­cal mag­is­trates’ court about the mur­der of his mother, Ma­he­jeen Banu Pa­tel, and the case was post­poned un­til to­mor­row, when he will ap­ply for bail. Known as Banu to her neigh­bours, she was shot and killed at her Nir­vana home in front of her do­mes­tic worker on Septem­ber 19.

Her son was ar­rested days later. At the time he was out on bail of R250 000 for Fa­tima’s mur­der.

His 51-year-old mother had been granted cus­tody of Pa­tel’s three small chil­dren, aged two, six and 10, while Pa­tel was al­lowed fre­quent ac­cess to them and to take them to school ev­ery day. It is un­clear who is car­ing for them now.

State pros­e­cu­tor Ad­vo­cate Mashudu Mu­dau told the high court that the state was about to close its case, which went to trial late last year, but it now needed to add two more wit­nesses, thanks to new ev­i­dence that sur­faced dur­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Pa­tel’s mother’s mur­der.

The court heard that among those set to tes­tify against Pa­tel, who op­er­ates his family’s whole­sale busi­ness, was his brother Razeem, who has fled the coun­try in fear of his life. He is thought to be in the UK. Last Au­gust, Pa­tel’s fa­ther, Feroz, was killed in broad day­light in what was ini­tially be­lieved to be an armed rob­bery. But po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tions found that noth­ing was stolen af­ter the sus­pects shot Feroz and fled the scene. Po­lice spokesper­son Lieu­tenant Colonel Moat­she Ngoepe said in­ves­ti­ga­tions into Pa­tel’s fa­ther’s mur­der were near­ing com­ple­tion, but he re­fused to com­ment on whether Pa­tel was a sus­pect.

“Soon we will be mak­ing an an­nounce­ment on the out­come. We are optimistic that we will make an ar­rest soon,” Ngoepe said.

De­tails heard dur­ing Pa­tel’s lengthy trial in­cluded the fact that he was a cage fighter and a kick­box­ing teacher. How­ever, his old fight­ing mates de­scribe him as an am­a­teur, who fought once, got beaten and then started train­ing oth­ers. “Rameez is not a cage fighter,” said one se­nior fighter in the re­gion, who asked not to be named. “He was badly beaten and never re­turned to fight again.” Last year, the high court heard that two key wit­nesses, for­eign na­tion­als work­ing for the Pa­tels, had dis­ap­peared af­ter ask­ing to be re­leased from the state’s wit­ness pro­tec­tion pro­gramme, com­plain­ing about their in­ad­e­quate stipend. One was do­mes­tic worker Si­bongile Ng­wenya,

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Do you think that hearsay is ac­cept­able ev­i­dence in a trial such as this one?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MUR­DER and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 whose af­fi­davit was read out in court this week by the now-re­tired SA Po­lice Ser­vice in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer Le­siba Ra­maru. In her af­fi­davit, Ng­wenya says she once found a gun in Pa­tel’s bed­room and took a pho­to­graph of it with her cell­phone. The pho­to­graph was handed in as ev­i­dence this week. Pa­tel claimed he had never owned a gun.

Ng­wenya also al­leges that she over­heard Pa­tel talk­ing to some­one and de­scrib­ing how he had killed his wife by hit­ting her with a cricket bat and stran­gling her.

“I took a cricket bat, hit her in the face, and she fell down on the floor,” she quoted Pa­tel as say­ing to a vis­i­tor in the din­ing room as she stood out­side in the pas­sage.

Her state­ment was ac­cepted as hearsay ev­i­dence, but its ad­mis­si­bil­ity will be de­ter­mined at the end of the trial.

Pa­tel re­mained calm in court as mount­ing ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing CCTV footage – which placed him at the crime scene and showed him wear­ing two dif­fer­ent sets of clothes be­fore and af­ter the mur­der – was screened.

To­mor­row, Pa­tel will again ap­ply for bail, for the mur­der of his mother. His lawyer, Tumi Mokoena, said he was optimistic that his client would be re­leased again.

Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity pro­vin­cial spokesper­son Mashudu Mal­abi-Dzhangi said the state would op­pose Pa­tel’s ap­pli­ca­tion.

Rameez Pa­tel in court for the mur­der of his wife, Fa­tima (28)

HAP­PIER TIMES Rameez and Fa­tima Pa­tel on their wed­ding day. She was fa­tally shot in 2015

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