With tears running down her cheeks, Cynthia Naidoo welcomed the life sentence handed down to her daughter’s killer, Niresh Singh, in the Durban High Court on Friday.
Trisha Naidoo, 28, died in hospital two weeks after Singh, 37, doused her in petrol and set her alight as she crouched against the wall in the toilet of their home on November 16, 2016.
“This has been so hard for our family… he (Singh) was putting the blame on my daughter and she was not here to defend herself,” the emotional mother said.
In spite of his pleas of innocence – and claims that she had done it to herself – KwaZulu-Natal High Court Judge Esther Steyn convicted Singh of premeditated murder last month and, on Friday, sentenced him to life imprisonment.
She also denied him leave to appeal his conviction and sentence.
“And the aggravating circumstances far outweigh any mitigating circumstances,” the judge said.
‘Serious social evil’
“He also did not take this court into his confidence… instead persisting with his version which, on the objective facts, could not possibly be true.
“She lost her life in the most horrific manner in her own home where she should have been safe.
“No one has the right to take a life. Domestic violence is on the increase. It is a serious social evil.”
The judge found that he had set fire to her in the toilet of the house they shared in KwaDukuza while she was hiding from him. Earlier that evening, she had taken their seven-year-old son to her sister, Nikita Naidoo, who lived two doors away.
They had to break down the locked front door and found Singh sitting on the couch downstairs. He looked at them as Trisha’s screams of “help, help I am burning” came from upstairs.
Running to help her, Nikita found her sister in the shower, screaming in pain. Evidence presented at trial said smoke was still coming out of Trisha’s hair and her body was still steaming. There was a petrol container on the stairwell.
According to testimony, Singh came into the bathroom and said to Trisha, “I told your sister you did it to yourself.”
Singh remained expressionless in the dock yesterday morning as Judge Esther Steyn handed down his sentence in the high court.
Tisha lost her life in hospital two days later. While there, she told a doctor that she had done it to herself. But crucial evidence was given by Lorraine Sewpersad, a nursing assistant at Stanger Hospital, who lived opposite, who had assisted that night.
She said at first Tisha said she had done it to herself but then, after asking if Singh was there and being told he was not, she said he had thrown petrol over her and then threw more under the door of the toilet and struck a match.
Forensic evidence also proved that she was in a “defensive position” with her back against the wall.
The judge praised the prosecutor, senior state advocate Cheryl Naidu, and police investigators for their professionalism and hard work and described the investigation and prosecution as “exceptional”.