SA’s first successful private prosecution has been given judicial sanction. Two Western Cape judges confirmed a man’s conviction and 15-year prison sentence for the murder of his girlfriend.

A Sunday Times Daily report says the matter was taken on appeal by Faizel Hendricks, who was convicted of killing Rochelle Naidoo (27) in the Cape Town flat they shared in 2005.

Hendricks claimed Naidoo had committed suicide after taking his firearm, putting it in her mouth and pulling the trigger.

After an inquest hearing – at which Hendricks testified – the DPP declined to prosecute. But Naidoo’s parents instituted private prosecution proceedings and hired Advocate Gideon Scheltema SC, to lead the case.

The matter was heard in the Malmesbury Regional Court. Hendricks did not testify, but his testimony during the inquest was admitted into evidence.

In July 2014, he was found guilty of murder and the following year he was sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Hendricks appealed. However, Justice Deirdre Kusevitsky, with Judge Chantel Fortuin concurring, yesterday ruled that the trial court had been correct in convicting him.

Kusevitsky said: ‘One has to caution against an automatic assumption that the presence of an assault would automatically equate to murder.’ And that was where the expert evidence became pivotal, she said.

The trial court had accepted the evidence of specialist pathologist Reggie Perumal that this was homicide and not suicide. This was based on blood spatter, that Naidoo could not have inflicted the injuries she had on herself and that it was improbable she would have shoved the revolver all the way down her throat.

‘The private prosecutor proved beyond reasonable doubt that she was murdered,’ Kusevitsky said, confirming the conviction and sentence.

The report notes the private prosecutions team was made up of Scheltema and attorney Assiff Essa, who was assisted by Kantha Naidoo, the in-house attorney at Asmalls, the company owned by Naidoo’s parents.

Full Sunday Times Daily report (subscription needed)