Former Plessislaer police inspector Sipho Dennis Shabalala (40) was found guilty in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday of the premeditated murder of his common law wife, Sindi Mary Cele (42), in November 2005.
Judge Isaac Madondo, sitting with assessors, found Shabalala resolved to shoot and kill Cele because she would not return to him after they quarrelled, and that he then tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the forehead.
Shabalala is now in a wheelchair.
The judge said it was common cause that the couple were not on good terms about four days prior to the shooting, so much so that Shabalala chased Cele away from his home in Imbali.
In the early hours of November 29, 2005, he came to her parents’ house with a view to win her back, but she refused to accompany him.
The court found that Shabalala’s evidence in the case was “flawed with contradictions and improbabilities”. He had testified that Cele was shot by an unknown man at their Imbali home, where they ran a tuck shop and tavern, and that he was then shot and lost consciousness.
However, the judge said his testimony did not match his statement earlier that he had an incomplete recollection of events.
One state witness (a youth) reported having heard Cele tell him to put down his firearm and that they should talk. He saw her holding Shabalala’s hands and trying to push him away. Then gun shots rang out in rapid succession.
The judge said photographs showed multiple gunshot wounds to Cele’s right arm and armpit, consistent with this description.
He said it could be reasonably inferred from all the evidence that Shabalala was the person who shot and killed Cele and that he then shot himself.
The judge said the evidence pointed to the fact that Shabalala planned to kill Cele, that he ordered four quarts of beer and drank with others to get up some “Dutch courage”, that he waited for her at the tuck shop, and shot her (with his police issue firearm).
Shabalala will be sentenced today.