Police are testing whether a split-second decision by a Chatsworth father to shoot at his car taken by two suspected hijackers, and containing his nine-year-old daughter, had tragic consequences.
The only firearm recovered from the scene where Sadia Sukhraj died from a gunshot on Monday belonged to her father.
Now KwaZulu-Natal police have sent Pastor Shailendra Sukhraj’s gun and the fatal bullet for ballistics testing.
The unspeakable tragedy, which played out in the suburb south of Durban on Monday morning, sparked community outrage as news of the girl’s death spread.
One of the alleged hijackers died not far from the scene – beaten to death – while a second, Sibonelo Mkhize, was arrested by an off-duty police officer and has been charged with murder in connection with Sadia’s death and that of his alleged accomplice.
But Police Minister Bheki Cele said the death and the circumstances surrounding the crime had already caused “too much pain”.
After visiting the family on Thursday, he said: “The law will always be sympathetic to law-abiding citizens and it should be so.
“Police have assured me that there is no seeking of criminals when they are no criminals and to work on the matter and take a step forward with the full understanding that we are not going to create… double pain in the community. It cannot be. The pain that I experienced in that house is enough. I experienced a lot of pain in that house.”
Cele said police were close to arresting a third suspect.
Two days after Sadia’s death, KwaZulu-Natal police spokeswoman Captain Nqobile Gwala confirmed that no firearms were found on the two alleged hijackers.
Brigadier Jay Naicker of the police media office said the investigation was “in its early stages. We do not want to comment at this stage, especially in light of the suspect that is already appearing before court.”
A police officer close to the investigation said the child had been sitting in the back seat while her father was in the house when two men stole the vehicle.
“The father had parked the car on the road. He left it idling with the child inside while he went into the grandparents’ house. The two men got into the car and drove off with the child still in the vehicle.
“The father then came out and fired shots at the vehicle. It then crashed into a truck,” he said.
But family spokesman Pastor Cyril Pillay told the Sunday Times that the car was switched off and parked in the driveway.
“They [the hijackers] confronted him by the vehicle,” he said.
On the possibility that Sukhraj may have shot his daughter, Pillay said the family would await the ballistics test results.
“We have full confidence in the justice system,” Pillay said.
Forensic science expert David Klatzow said it would be easy to determine if a particular firearm had fired the shot.
He said the poor judgment of the father in shooting at a vehicle with his daughter in it was hard to overstate, but “in the absolute terror and emergency of the situation, he would not be thinking straight”.
Asked what would happen if ballistics matched the bullet to the father’s gun, he said: “Generally the courts have been very lenient on people who negligently kill their own child.
“There have been a number of these cases where negligence has been involved, which theoretically could give rise to a charge of culpable homicide. But generally the courts have taken the view that this person has suffered enough and they just write it off and refuse to prosecute.”
In 2004 the NPA declined to prosecute former Springbok rugby player Rudi “Vleis” Visagie as the death of his 19-year-old daughter, who he shot after mistaking her for a car thief, was punishment enough.
On Friday morning an emotional Sukhraj told the Sunday Times that he “just couldn’t talk”.
He said: “There is just too much pressure on me.”
His father, Prem, explained that Sukhraj had just returned from taking his six-month-old son to the doctor. “The baby is now sick. It’s all too much for them,” he said.
Author: NIVASHNI NAIR – TimesLIVE
Source: TMG Digital