Shoot­ing: cheat­ing man walks

FREE: Court rules self de­fence

Weekend Witness - - News - IN­GRID OELLERMANN

RASHIKA Bhag­wandin has stood by the man who cheated on her for four years.

And yes­ter­day she was by his side when he was ac­quit­ted of mur­der­ing a love ri­val in De­cem­ber 2010.

Pi­eter­mar­itzburg busi­ness­man Larry Bhag­wandin (39) walked out of court a free man, ex­press­ing joy but also re­morse for the death of his former em­ployee Ray Paul (28).

Re­gional court mag­is­trate, Nom­cebo Zondi, ac­cepted in her judg­ment that Bhag­wandin — who was rep­re­sented by ad­vo­cate Gideon Schel­tema, SC — acted in self de­fence when he shot Paul dur­ing a fight.

It hap­pened two months af­ter Paul found out about Bhag­wandin’s four-year af­fair with his wife, Kerusha.

Paul’s par­ents, Ruth and Pa­trick, said they could not for­give their son’s killer for what he had done.

Bhag­wandin was sup­ported at court by fam­ily mem­bers, in­clud­ing Rashika, who said she’d for­given her hus­band’s in­fi­delity, as they have three chil­dren to con­sider.

His sis­ter, Geetha Singh, said although her brother was ac­quit­ted, his free­dom “didn’t come easy”.

“He went through a lot. His bail con­di­tions stip­u­lated that he couldn’t live in Pi­eter­mar­itzburg, so he had to leave his fam­ily, he lost his busi­ness and he is very re­morse­ful for what he did,” she said.

But for Paul’s par­ents, this was cold com­fort.

A bit­ter Ruth Paul said Bhag­wandin “has a nerve” to say he is sorry for what he did.

“My son is dead and his daugh­ter, now eight, will grow up with­out a fa­ther … He [ Bhag­wandin] was the one who had an af­fair and while my son was work­ing he was jolling with his wife. Now he wants to say sorry. Noth­ing can bring my son back,” she said an­grily.

Her hus­band said the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion was not good enough, even though the pros­e­cu­tor did his best.

“We be­lieve there were wit­nesses who failed to come for­ward be­cause they were afraid of vic­tim­i­sa­tion,” Pa­trick Paul said.

In his ev­i­dence at his trial, Bhag­wandin ad­mit­ted he’d had a long-stand­ing ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair with Paul’s wife. At the time, Paul was em­ployed by him at his busi­ness, N & N New & Used Tyre Ware­house in Al­lan­dale, as a tyre fit­ter.

Bhag­wandin said two months be­fore the shoot­ing Paul found out and re­signed.

Bhag­wandin there­after em­ployed Kerusha as a cashier and man­ager at the busi­ness.

On the day in ques­tion he and Kerusha were on oppo- site sides of a desk in an of­fice when a “very an­gry” Paul rushed in and at­tacked him with what ap­peared to be a small “blade”.

Bhag­wandin was “shocked” by Paul’s sud­den ap­pear­ance and tried to ward off the “strikes” which were di­rected at his up­per body.

He sus­tained a cut on his neck dur­ing the fra­cas.

He told the court when he drew his gun from an an­kle hol­ster and shot Paul as he lunged at him, he had thought Paul was go­ing to kill him.

The court ac­cepted that Paul had been the ag­gres­sor that day, and Zondi said the state wasn’t able to counter Bhag­wandin’s ev­i­dence that he had feared Paul.

“It was a very emo­tional sit­u­a­tion and ev­ery­thing hap­pened rapidly in a small con­fined space. Tak­ing into ac­count all the ev­i­dence the court has no rea­son to re­ject the ver­sion of the ac­cused [Bhag­wandin] that he be­lieved he was in dan­ger and acted in self de­fence when he fired [at Paul],” the mag­is­trate said.

Kerusha was not in court for the judg­ment.

PHOTO: SHAN PIL­LAY

Larry Bhag­wandin and his sis­ter Geetha Singh af­ter he was ac­quit­ted of mur­der yes­ter­day.

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