Durban – Nine months after Sadia Sukhraj was killed in a botched hijacking, her emotional father testified in the Durban High Court that there was a possibility that he could have shot his daughter.
Shailendra Sukhraj was the first witness to take the stand at the start of the trial yesterday where it emerged that he fired a whole magazine – 15 live rounds – as hijackers made off with his car and daughter.
“As a parent, I feared for her life,” he told the court.
He said the suspects did not retaliate as he fired at the vehicle.
“At the time my concern was not my vehicle. It was my child being taken away. My primary concern was to stop the vehicle because I wanted my child back,” he said.
During cross-examination, Sukhraj also admitted that he could have also shot and killed one of the suspects, Siyabonga Bulose.
Sukhraj fought back tears as he described the details before Sadia was shot and the moment he saw her lifeless body on the hospital stretcher.
He said on the morning of May 28, 2018, he and his wife, Lorraine, had left their Shallcross home to drop off Sadia’s six-month-old brother, Jaziel, at their grandparent’s house, which was less than two minutes away.
“It was routine for us. Sadia was dressed in her school uniform and sitting in the back seat with my wife and our son. I stopped my car in the driveway and my wife jumped out with Jaziel. I then got out with the baby bag. Sadia remained in the car.”
He said after a minute, his wife walked out of the house to the car where she seemed “astonished” and said, “Oh my God.”
“I went to investigate to find two African males, one at the drivers-side door and another at the passenger door. The guy at the driver’s side had a silver handgun pointed at me. He demanded my keys.”
Sukhraj described the suspect with the gun as a bearded man who carried a dark-coloured sling bag.
He said he “tossed” his keys to the suspect and slowly made his way back to the house.
When questioned by prosecutor Kelvin Singh as to why he handed over the keys, Sukhraj said he “had to submit to the request of the accused”.
“My life was in danger and I feared we could all be attacked or harmed or robbed.”
Soon after re-entering his in-laws’ home, Sukhraj pulled out his own 9mm firearm and ran outside.
He said he began firing shots at the driver to stop him from driving off with Sadia.
Sukhraj fired about five shots in the yard and more as the suspects drove off. He said as the vehicle reversed it hit the gate at the top of the yard and a blue Toyota Corolla parked on the road.
He said the last time he saw Sadia alive was as the suspects reversed out of his in-laws’ driveway.
“I saw her jump up as the vehicle hit the gate at the top of the yard. The back door opened on impact.”
Sukhraj said a passer-by who witnessed the incident told him to jump into his vehicle and they gave chase.
“We were on the Higginson Highway when I realised I had a tracker app on my phone. I checked it and saw that the vehicle had stopped on Causcaus Road in Shallcross. The ignition had been switched off.
“I asked the driver of the vehicle to make a U-turn and take me back to Shallcross.”
The court heard that when Sukhraj got to the scene, a number of residents and a police vehicle were present. He was told that Sadia had been shot and taken to the hospital.
“I jumped back into the vehicle with the driver and he took me to Chatsmead Garden Hospital in Woodhurst.”
Describing his moments at the hospital was tough for Sukhraj, as he sighed heavily and held back tears between his sentences.
He said he saw his wife and brother-in-law, who were “emotional”, as he entered.
“I asked them both how Sadia was. I decided to go into the trauma unit to see Sadia, but I was told by the nurse that Sadia was being worked on by the doctors and I needed to wait. I didn’t know at that time she had already passed on.”
He said it was only when he persisted in asking to see his daughter that the doctor informed him that Sadia had died.
He said he was allowed to see her “lifeless body” and could not believe “this child was taken away from me in seconds”. The court heard that the cause of Sadia’s death was a fatal bullet wound to the chest.
The matter continues tomorrow.
Sadia would have turned 10 on February 25.