The inquest in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court into the death of Suraya Deedat and her children will continue provisionally on 16 April 2020. Adv. Gerrie Nel, Head of AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, represents Suraya’s family.
Suraya and her children burnt to death in their home on July 2011. No-one has been held responsible yet. The inquest gives interested parties an opportunity to test the evidence and help the Magistrate to come to a finding on who or what caused their deaths. The only survivor is Suraya’s husband, Naeem Deedat, who escaped through the bathroom window.
Two witnesses testified this week. Danny Joubert, a fire and explosion expert, testified on 18 February. According to Joubert’s testimony, the positions are suspect in which the bodies of Suraya and her children had been found. Suraya was lying on her back in a position that indicated that she had been on her knees and had then fallen backwards, and her children were lying on their backs next to her in the middle of the sitting room floor. Joubert testified that this is not the typical position of people who had tried to escape from a fire, because they were not close to an escape route. He also said that he had never in his whole career found a mother’s body not lying over her children in an attempt to protect them from the fire. According to Joubert, Naeem’s version is also highly unlikely that a fire would have escalated within seconds from a contained fire into an uncontained inferno, unless a fire accelerator had been used.
Naeem’s sister, Hassima Deedat, testified that Suraya and Naeem had had a loving relationship. However, under cross-examination by Adv Nel she was unable to explain why Naeem had allegedly unhinged one of the children’s arm or pushed Suraya into a baby cot.
Jacob Polelo, a bystander who testified on 13 February, was cross-examined by Naeem’s lawyer yesterday.
“AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit believes that the inquest will lead to justice for Suraya’s family. It is important for us to become involved in cases like this because justice must prevail, especially when the National Prosecuting Authority fails to prosecute even if prima facie evidence exists for a crime,” says Andrew Leask, Head Investigator at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit.