Cape Town - A Pietermaritzburg family whose daughter was killed in 2005 say they have finally gained closure after two Western Cape High Court judges last week upheld the killer’s 15-year sentence.
The sentence was handed down in 2016 during South Africa’s historic first successful private prosecution for murder.
The family’s ordeal dates back to June 28, 2005 when their daughter, 27-year-old Rochelle Naidoo, was shot dead by her boyfriend, Faizel Hendricks. The two were the only people in Naidoo’s rented Cape Town apartment when she was shot in the mouth.
Hendricks told police Naidoo had taken her own life. She had grabbed his firearm, forced it down her throat and shot herself. Her parents did not believe the story.
The trial was transferred to the Western Cape High Court in August 2007 but charges were withdrawn the following year when the DPP declined to prosecute.
In 2008, an inquest was convened and a year later the magistrate ruled that while Hendricks had seriously assaulted Naidoo that day, she could not “determine who held the firearm at the fatal moment”.
Naidoo’s parents Yusuf and Sara Asmall instituted a private prosecution. The trial began in August 2010, more than five years after the shooting.
It took another four years before a guilty verdict was handed down and Hendricks was found guilty in the Cape Town Regional Court sitting in Malmesbury in July 2014 and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in May 2016.
At the time, Magistrate Michelle Adams said, in passing sentence, that Hendricks had shown no remorse in the 11 years since the incident and that she found no reason to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence.
Hendricks appealed the conviction in December 2018, claiming among other things that Adams made factual errors and misdirections regarding Naidoo’s state of mind.
The matter was heard virtually in June 2021 and the ruling was handed down last week. Making the judgment, Judge Deidre Kusevitsky said Hendricks’ argument that his was a crime of passion would have been an aggravating factor.
“This was most certainly not a reason to lessen a sentence, given the unabated scourge of violence perpetrated against females in domestic and romantic partnerships.”
She confirmed the original 15-year sentence and Judge Chantel Fortuin concurred.
Speaking to the Cape Argus on Friday, Yunus Asmall, Naidoo’s father, said that for his wife, himself, their two sons and a younger daughter the process had been tough.
“It took us 10 years in court during which time I ended up having cancer and so I missed a lot of the sessions, except for the last two. However, my wife was there in Malmesbury most of the time.
“It’s been a painful journey. It was a costly affair. The long and short of it is that I think we’ve finally got closure.”
He said every appearance and professional hired, including pathologists, advocates and ballistic experts, had added to the cost.
Asmall said he hoped his family’s painful journey and long fight for justice would send a message to people involved with gender-based violence that they could never get away with it.
Family attorney Kantha Naidoo said South Africa’s first successful private prosecution had now made history, for all women who have no voice.