Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, today made closing arguments in the inquest into the death of Suraya Deedat and her four children (between the ages of six months and four years) in a fire in 2011. The Unit represent Suraya’s family in the inquest. Naeem Deedat, Suraya’s husband and the only person who survived the fire, is the person of interest in this inquest.
For almost a decade nobody has been held accountable for the deaths of Suraya and her children, and the formal inquest gives interested parties the opportunity to test evidence and to help the magistrate come to a conclusion about who and/or what was responsible for their deaths. Magistrate John Maloba is expected to make his decision on Wednesday with regard to whether Naeem can be held accountable for their deaths. Thereafter the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) must make a decision about prosecuting this person.
Nel during closing arguments emphasized that Naeem ought to be prosecuted on charges of the murder of Suraya and their four children. The evidence that he should indeed be held accountable for their deaths is overwhelming and includes that:
- Naeem survived without any injuries – his beard had not even been singed;
- the bodies of the victims were found in the supine position in the living area indicating that they had not even attempted to flee;
- Suraya’s body was found about six meters away from her six month old baby;
- accelerators were possibly used to accelerate the fire;
- the door of the main bedroom with the en suite bathroom from where Naeem escaped through the window was, according to all the expert witnesses, as well as WO Jacobus Venter (the policeman who was the first person on the scene), locked from the inside.
Nel during his closing arguments said that the quality and credibility of the expert witnesses called by Naeem’s legal team is concerning and that it should be rejected as irrelevant and implausible. Nel also argued that their evidence should be reported to the relevant authorities.
According to the Inquests Act 58 of 1959 the presiding magistrate may call any witness to testify. Magistrate Maloba today called Naeem to give evidence, but Naeem refused to assist the court with the inquest. This means that the person of interest provided no version to the court about what happened on that night.
According to Natasha Venter, Advisor at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, the circumstantial evidence in this case is overwhelming. “The deaths of Suraya and her four children are tragic and the criminal justice system cannot continue to fail her family. The perseverance and continued pursuit of justice for Suraya and her children by her family is to be commended. It is therefore now time, and in the interests of justice that Naeem is prosecuted for this atrocious deed,” says Natasha Venter.