Jan 20, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

‘She would never take her own life’: 17-year quest for justice is a vindication of a mother’s love

“She will never leave our minds or our hearts. You know, you know your children and she was a happy and cheerful person and we knew that she would never take her own life.”

Those were the words of Yunus Asmall, Rochelle’s father Naidoo, who is two judges have now confirmed she was murdered by her boyfriend Faizel Hendricks in their Cape Town home in 2005. He will serve 15 years in prison for the crime.

It was a long 17-year quest for justice filled with heartbreak and disappointment that led to the family launching the first successful private prosecution in South Africa, whereupon Hendricks was convicted and convicted.

He appealed, however. Justices Deirdre Kusevitsky and Justices Chantel Fortuin have now ruled that the trial court was correct in convicting him and that it was murder and not suicide as Hendricks claimed.

“We’ve finally made it. Asmall told TimesLIVE in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon.

The Asmall family owns a family business with a branch in Cape Town. Her daughter led it. She loved the city, but she also loved going home to Pietermaritzburg to visit her parents and siblings.

Asmall said shortly before she was killed that he booked her a ticket home and she did was excited.

“And then we got the call from Faizel’s brother to say that she was shot. I asked where because I thought the store was closed. I asked if she was okay and he told me she was dead.”

Asmall said Hendricks hadn’t spoken to him since.

He said the The family was bitterly upset when, after an investigation, the prosecutor declined to bring charges.

They decided to pursue private prosecution because it was “the right thing to do”.

They were the top -Attorney Gideon Sceltema SC to lead the charge.

It took its toll. Asmall said he had been diagnosed with cancer and that his wife Sara would have to go to Cape Town without him and attend the trial at Malmesbury Regional Court.

Finally, in July 2014, Hendricks was convicted and the next year he was convicted.

But it would take another seven years for his appeals to slowly tumble through the justice system before they were met this week.

“I hope this makes others realize that you end up of the day can get justice. It comes at a high price and not everyone can afford it. And that’s the sad part.”

Hendricks claimed that he and Naidoo had a fight and that he packed his bag and left. Naidoo was after him and he had returned to the apartment.

She took his revolver and put it in her mouth and shot herself.

But the two judges say, based on expert opinion this version was unlikely.

“More likely he put the gun in her mouth and in her attempt to grab and pull her out, the trigger was pulled by the applicant [Hendricks] and this would reasonably explain the presence of primer remnants on the hands of the deceased [Naidoo].

“His actions after her death also raised doubts as to whether it had in fact been suicide,” the judges noted, saying, he did not call for help, did not call her parents, and gave the police and the inquest various versions of what happened.

“He also had to fabricate a version in which he allegedly turned the deceased over , ver presumably to explain the blood on his hands and the smear marks near his body.

“All evidence indicates she did not commit suicide but was shot in the mouth to look like like she did.”

Scheltema has published a book about his experiences as a private prosecutor called Justice Delayed.

“The book is the story of Sara and her courageous attempt to overcome many stumbling blocks on her path to justice,” says Scheltema in the foreword. “The book examines the importance of forensic evidence in reconstructing the shooting that led to Rochelle’s death.

“Private murder prosecutions are rare, even on a global scale.”

He writes that the decision to pursue private prosecution was a bold one.

On Hendricks’ post-trial murder conviction, he wrote, “What just happened was not a victory that calls for congratulations or celebration. Instead, it was a mere vindication of a mother’s love for her daughter and her belief that she did not commit suicide.”

The legal team consisted of Scheltema, Attorney Asiff Essa, assisted by in-house attorney Kantha Naidoo, who works for the family business Asmall.

Scheltema said: β€œThe Asmalls should be respected for their role in taking on a case of this magnitude and their efforts to eradicate gender-based violence. The significance of this charge will be felt for a long time. As I say in the book, violence against defenseless women strikes the soul of a nation.”