KZN man charged with triple homicide begs for forgiveness from victim’s family
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Durban: The Tongaat businessman, who caused the deaths of three carpool companions 10 years ago, has asked their families to forgive him.
Shalan Shewshanker, 33, apologised to the families of Eureka Govender, Marlon Pillay and Duveshnee Naicker in the Durban Regional Court on Thursday.
"I want to say I'm sorry. I wish I had died in that accident too. Please forgive me," said Shewshanker.
On June 15, 2011, Sewshanker drove his BMW 320i through a red traffic light on the R102, near Ottawa. His vehicle collided with a VW Polo in which Pillay, 32, Govender, 30, and Naicker, 24, were travelling.
Sewshanker, a third-year BCom student at the time, was subsequently charged with three counts of culpable homicide, one count of driving under the influence of alcohol, and a further count of reckless or negligent driving.
The case was initially withdrawn but it was reinstated in 2018. He has been out on bail since.
At his trial, Sewshanker denied being liable for the crash.
In October last year, he was found guilty on all counts - except for driving under the influence of alcohol.
During sentencing last week, Shewshanker spoke of his trauma and regret. He said the past 10 years had been a sentence in itself.
"Not a day goes by that I don't regret what happened. I wish I could have taken a different route. My life will never be the same again. I often ask myself why I was spared. Sometimes I wish I lost my life as well."
Shewshanker said since the accident, he had never married nor had children. He said he was seeing a psychiatrist and getting medication for depression and anxiety.
Shewshanker, who now lives in Tongaat with his grandmother, said he avoided going to Verulam, where he grew up, as he did not want to cross paths with families of the deceased.
"When I am at the mall and if I see any of the deceased's families, I stop what I'm doing and leave as I don't want to cause any more pain to them."
He said he opened a clothing factory after he had difficulty finding a job and he employed 50 workers.
"I am the sole owner and run the factory on my own with my staff. If for any reason I am not at the factory, it will close and the 50 workers will be left without a job."
Shewshanker said after what had happened, he tried to do good, donate and was ready to assist anyone who needed help.
"I feel that it will bring good karma."
He said his dad had tried to speak to a representative of the families but he was allegedly told they needed time.
During cross-examination, Rakesh Singh, a senior State prosecutor, asked Shewshanker why he had only shown remorse at the sentencing part of the trial.
"I was always remorseful, but because of the police and the case, I couldn't say anything."
Singh asked: "Do you now accept responsibility? Do you accept that you caused the accident?"
"I take responsibility that I was driving the car and the cars collided," said Shewshanker.
Singh said the court required more in terms of his remorse.
"When the case is finalised, I will start an investment (for Govender’s child)," said Shewshanker.
"Why didn't you start it already so that you could have come to court and said so," asked Singh.
"I was traumatised and pressured and waiting for the case to be over," was the response.
The State then called Krisnavelu Govender, Eureka Govender's mother-in-law, to testify.
She said Govender was married to her son, Ashley Govender, for five years. Their child was three at the time of the accident.
Krisnavelu said she raised the couple's son.
"Ten months after Eureka's death, my husband was murdered so we had to deal with two tragedies. Our lives will never be the same."
She said she did not pity the accused because he had not shown remorse.
"We understand that nothing can bring them back but we are also suffering. We haven't moved past this. Psychologically, it has affected my grandson in school. The reason why I did not want to bring him here today was because I don't want him to grow up with hatred – thinking that there is someone out there that killed his mom. I live with this nightmare every single day."
She said their business had suffered as Govender's death had taken a toll on her son.
"We have a logistics company, which is on the verge of bankruptcy. My son could not even be in court today because he is doing deliveries so that he can sustain us."
She denied that the accused or someone from his family had tried to communicate with a family spokesperson to show remorse or make amends.
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court, Diana Pillay, Marlon Pillay's sister, said he was the eldest of three siblings. She said her brother had taken the role of leader since their dad died a few years earlier.
"Even now, years later, when his birthday comes around ... it is difficult to fight back the tears. My mother's life has narrowed to the house we grew up in. She hardly leaves. Marlon never hesitated to spend his own time, money and effort to help others. Every Christmas, Marlon delivered gifts and a meal to an orphanage in the Verulam area on behalf of himself and his work colleagues. He was always the first person anyone would call when they needed a hand."
Duveshnee Naicker's dad, Sivalingum Naicker, said in his impact statement that he remembered rushing to the hospital after being notified of the accident.
"Before she could be taken to theatre, tears rolled down her face. Her last words to us were 'I wanna go home'. Later, I realised that it was God's home and not her physical home."
He said since that day, his family had been broken.
"Not a day has passed where we have not spoken or thought of our princess. I hear people say 'don't worry, time heals'. The truth is that it gets more difficult."
In mitigation of sentence, advocate Shane Mathews, Shewshanker's defence counsel, asked the court for correctional supervision.
He said the case was unique in that 10 years had passed and the accused had not committed any further offences.
"It shows that he is not a human being that has to be sent to prison. If he does, how does it help the family, except get retribution?
“This young man made a terrible mistake when he was 23-years-old. He has picked himself by his shoelaces, got a business, assisted the community and is prepared to assist the families of the deceased. He is an asset to the community."
In aggravation of sentence, Singh asked for a minimum of six years imprisonment be imposed.
"When it comes to sentencing, the court must take into account that three lives were lost and that these are serious offences. The accused went through the first red light and did not slow down. He did not provide the court with why he did what he did. The accused was driving. It was his duty to determine his behaviour. The accused failed to perform proper observations."
On the issue of remorse, Singh said: "It is a factual question on whether he is just not feeling sorry for himself. The only thing that has provoked his change of heart was that he was found guilty. No matter what the accused does, the families have been robbed of their loved ones.
“If he wanted to do something for the family, he should have done it immediately. That said, no amount of money can take away the pain and suffering that has been endured."
Magistrate Prithi Bhoda Khedun will hand down sentence next month.