Maritzburg Sun (South Africa)
Asmall family’s brave fight for justice
After 17 long years, the Asmall family has finally achieved justice for their daughter, Rochelle Naidoo, who was brutally murdered in Cape Town in 2005.
On Thursday last week, Judge Deirdre Kusevitsky and Judge Chantel Fortuin, sitting at the Western Cape division of the High Court, ruled that the regional court in Malmesbury had correctly convicted her then boyfriend, Faizel Hendricks, and that it was a homicide and not suicide as he had claimed.
Hendricks will serve 15 years in jail for the crime, which was only brought to court after the Asmall family launched a private prosecution.
Speaking to Capital Newspapers, Yunus Asmall, said the victory was bittersweet. While they were happy that justice had been done, the pain of losing their daughter remained.
“If you lose a child, the impact to any family is very hard,” he added. “You don’t want to see your children go before you, especially in such tragic circumstances. We are not going to get her back, but at least we can have some closure.”
Asmall also praised his wife, Sara, for her bravery in attending every court appearance, especially after he was diagnosed with lymphoma.
“I was undergoing chemotherapy treatment and got septicaemia and was in a coma for 10 days,” Asmall said. “She had to fly to Cape Town for the case. All the time she was worried about me and the case and my health. She was very brave.”
Naidoo (27) was running the Cape Town branch of the Asmall family business when she met Hendricks, who had spent time with the family at their home in Pietermaritzburg.
“Our doors were always open to him,” Asmall said, “that’s why it was so shocking that he never called us after she died. He never contacted us in any way.”
The family was convinced that Naidoo had not committed suicide, saying it was completely out of character.
“Rochelle was a very bubbly person,” Asmall said. “She was a very hard worker and very competent in what she did.
“She also loved her family. Before she died she told me that she was going to come home for a holiday, but she didn’t make it. “When I fetched her possessions, I found gifts for her mom and her sister. Rochelle’s main reason to come home was to see her sister, Meshka. She loved her very much. They had such a loving relationship.”
Following an inquest into her death and the decision by the public prosecutor not to prosecute Hendricks, the Asmall family decided to do a private prosecution.
They hired top advocate Gideon Scheltema SC to lead the legal team, which included seasoned attorney Asif Essa, the Asmall’s legal advisor, Kantha Naidoo, and Cape
Town attorney Zaheer Bhadrudeen.
Hendricks was finally convicted in July 2014 and sentenced for the crime in 2016.
He then appealed and it took a further seven years for the case to make its way through the justice system, culminating in last week’s High Court ruling.
In their judgment, Kusevitsky and Fortuin, said that, based on the expert evidence, Hendricks’ version of events was improbable.
He had claimed that he and Naidoo argued on the night she died and that he had packed a bag and left their apartment.
Naidoo had then, he said, come after him and they had returned to the apartment where he alleged she took his revolver, put it into her mouth and shot herself.
The judges said that what was more probable was that Hendricks had shoved the firearm into Naidoo’s mouth and that, in her attempt to grab hold of it and pull it out, the trigger was pulled by Hendricks.
This they said would reasonably explain the presence of gunshot residue on Naidoo’s hands.
The judges also called into question his actions after her death, saying that he had not called for help, had not called Naidoo’s parents and had given different versions of what happened to the police and at the inquest hearing.
“He also had to fabricate a version where he ostensibly turned the deceased around, presumably to explain the blood on his hands and the smear marks close to his body,” they said.
“All the evidence suggests that she did not commit suicide but rather that she was shot in the mouth to look like she had done so.”
The judges also ruled that the blood spatter evidence in the apartment supported the contention that Hendricks had assaulted Naidoo prior to the shooting.
Naidoo had defensive wounds on her hands, a broken jaw and lacerations on her forehead, injuries which the judges said she was unlikely to have inflicted on herself.
Asmall said the family had been unaware of the abuse until after his daughter’s death.
“I hope that more cases of gender based violence will be treated seriously and that they [the perpetrators] get harsher sentences,” he added.