Parolee, con­victs on mur­der charges


ONE of the three men ac­cused of killing re­tired Chatsworth prin­ci­pal Gona Pil­lay was on pa­role for an armed rob­bery con­vic­tion at the time of the mur­der. A Chatsworth mag­is­trate, Steven Meyer, was told yes­ter­day dur­ing a court hear­ing that Fred Boy Msomi, 24, would have com­pleted his pa­role next Jan­uary. Msomi, Basil Un­der­hill, 24, and his rel­a­tive, Brave­man Un­der­hill, 24, were de­nied bail.

Meyer said he found no ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances to grant them bail.

Pil­lay, 66, and her hus­band, Loga, 68, were at­tacked in their home in Sil­ver­glen, Chatsworth, on Septem­ber 20.

Basil, from uMbum­bulu, was an in­tern es­tate agent from Pam Gold­ing Prop­er­ties in eManz­im­toti and was tasked with sell­ing the Pil­lays’ home.

He al­legedly took Brave­man, of Illovo, and Msomi, of Nsim­bini area in Fol­weni, to the house, and at knife­point threat­ened the own­ers and stabbed them be­fore re­mov­ing valu­ables from their home in- clud­ing neck­laces, a flat-screen tele­vi­sion set and the cou­ple’s Mercedes-Benz.

They are fac­ing charges of rob­bery with ag­gra­vat­ing cir­cum­stances, mur­der and at­tempted mur­der.

Pil­lay died at the scene, while Loga, who is also a re­tired school prin­ci­pal, sur­vived with se­ri­ous in­juries.

He spent six days in hospi­tal and has since been dis­charged.

State pros­e­cu­tor Than­deka Ng­camu had op­posed bail and cited the public out­cry be­cause crime in Chatsworth had es­ca­lated.

She ar­gued the men were flight risks be­cause they had no as­sets ty­ing them to one area, and cited the lack of ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances to mo­ti­vate their bail ap­pli­ca­tion. She also re­vealed that the trio were pre­vi­ously con­victed of rob­bery and as­sault.

“Not even their pre­vi­ous con­vic­tions could stop them from com­mit­ting crime. One of the men, a parolee whose pa­role was to ex­pire soon, could not be stopped by his pa­role con­di­tions,” ar­gued Ng­camu. She al­leged Basil was the mas­ter­mind be­hind the at­tack and said the State had a strong case against the men.

“The ve­hi­cle used in the crime was found with one of them. The stolen items be­long­ing to Pil­lay were found with one of them. The State has the point­ing-out and the iden­tity pa­rade ev­i­dence and their con­fes­sions,” said Ng­camu.

De­fence at­tor­ney Siyabonga Mncwabe read out the men’s af­fi­davits in sup­port of their bail ap­pli­ca­tion, to the court.

Mncwabe felt there were ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances for his clients to be granted bail. He ar­gued that they would not in­ter­fere with the wit­nesses be­cause they lived far away from where the in­ci­dent took place, and they would be safer in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Mncwabe urged the court to take into con­sid­er­a­tion the fact that his clients took the law into their con­fi­dence by not run­ning away when they be­came aware that the po­lice were look­ing for them. He dis­cred­ited the State’s point­ing-out, iden­ti­fi­ca­tion pa­rade and the al­leged con­fes­sions as pieces of ev­i­dence yet to be chal­lenged in the trial.

“At this stage it is not clear where the al­leged con­fes­sions were made and to whom. We do not have fur­ther de­tails of the ID pa­rade and who par­tic­i­pated. It could have been peo­ple with the same com­plex­ion and height as my clients,” said Mncwabe.

Ng­camu dis­agreed, say­ing Mncwabe’s sub­mis­sions were noth­ing but or­di­nary cir­cum­stances courts hear daily in petty cases. Meyer agreed that there were no ex­cep­tional cir­cum­stances to grant bail.

The case was ad­journed un­til Novem­ber 13 for the State to re­ceive post-mortem re­sults, fin­ger­prints and cell­phone ev­i­dence that would be use­ful in the high court pro­ceed­ings.

Al­though there were fewer peo­ple in court yes­ter­day than pre­vi­ously, those present rep­re­sented the Pil­lay fam­ily.

Joyce Naidu, a res­i­dent, said deny­ing bail was the first step to­wards re­ceiv­ing jus­tice for the Pil­lay fam­ily.

Gona Pil­lay was mur­dered dur­ing a home in­va­sion. Her hus­band, Loga, sur­vived.

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