By all accounts, Shailendra Sukhraj, who shot and killed his daughter in an attempt to save her, during a botched car highjack, on 28 May 2018, is a strong, brave, caring, and loving father.
A year down the line, he finally pours heart out the agony eating up the family, as they try to come to terms with how a bright, innocent young soul was not only tragically lost, but sadly, from the bullet fired by her own father.
For many South Africans, visualising the scene which would easily pass for a Hollywood movie clip, brings painful emotions, heartbreak, and sorrow.
The fateful day started like any other, with the Durban based Sukhrajs; Shailendra and Lorraine his wife going about their daily routine. The two were taking their baby boy, Jaziel (6 months) to his grandparents for day care, and their 9 year old daughter Sadia to school, enroute to work.
It was at the house of Lorraine’s parents in Shallcross, the place they intended to drop off Jaziel, where the unfortunate incident ‘drama in real life’ took place. Lorraine took her son into her parents' house, while Shailendra followed moments later after collecting the baby’s items from the car leaving Sadia inside the car as usual.
Before long Shailendra heard a scream from his wife who was now out walking to the car after having had settled the baby in her parents' house. Lorraine saw two men approaching the car in the driveway and screamed for her husband. Shailendra rushed outside and one of the two hijackers pointed a gun at him and demanded the car keys. He surrendered the keys and withdrew towards the house. His daughter Sadia was still in the car, and it was apparent she was going to be taken along with the car. And Shailendra was pretty sure his daughter, in the hands of highjackers, was in danger fearing she could be trafficked, raped, or even murdered.
“I had to submit to the request because my life and my family’s lives were under threat. From the moment I handed over the keys and went back in the house, I knew this spelt trouble,” he told the court during trail of the accused Sibonelo Mkhize, who was arrested at the scene by a police officer who was off duty.
Shailendra had a gun given to him by his bosses at work, as a salesman who travels due to the nature of his job, he always had a gun on him for self defence need be.
When he got back in the house, Shailendra took out his gun, and dashed back outside in a typical movie style started firing towards the car which was taking off; in a bid to prevent the highjackers from driving away with his daughter, who was sitting behind the front passenger seat.
“I could see her. My mind was focused on her as they were driving off and I knew I needed to stop the vehicle,” he recalls.
The car only stopped after hitting an obstacle, as the under fire highjackers rammed into the gate.
Sukhraj acted in the sense of love and protection like any other caring dad would have, as once put out by a prosecuting officer during a routine trial of the matter.
“If any other person was in Mr Sukhraj's shoes, they would have done whatever they could to get their child back,” the prosecutor told the court then, during the matter's hearing. But unfortunately one of his bullets hit Sadia in the chest, she was rushed to hospital but it was too late to save her.
Meanwhile, Mkhize (39) was recently jailed for life for aggravated robbery and for two counts of murder of Sadia and Mkzhize’s accomplice, Siyabonga Bulose.
Handing down the judgement, Judge Esther Steyn found Mkhize guilty as his actions had led to the two deaths, despite not having had fired the shots that killed Sadia and Bulose.
During trial, in was noted that under laws of common purpose, an accused can be held responsible for crimes they did not commit if, by their conduct, they must have foreseen the crimes could be committed, and as such Mkhize was found guilty.
The family was robbed of their beautiful young child, whose charm was derived, perhaps, from her strength of character, humble, mild-mannered, sociable, and likeable nature, even at that age. For the family, the fact that the long arm of justice has caught up with the man responsible is provides a little consolation, as nothing can close the void left by their little girl. Whom her father can refreshingly describe “Whatever you could want in a child, she was all of it.”
The family is still painfully trying to come to terms with the loss, and has roped in the services of spiritual, professional counselling to help them getting over the loss, not so easy to flush out of memory. The family also appreciate the support from relatives, friends and the community at large, in their difficult times of trying to reshape their lives.
It is refreshing justice has been served through the sentencing to life imprisonment of the offender, but surprisingly both Shailendra and Lorraine hold no grunge against Mkhize, they chosen peace, and let life go on.
They are slowly finding their feet, as they try to move forward with life without their gem, who was charismatic, cheerful, and would bring smiles on their faces.
“In court Mkhize didn’t show a stitch of remorse. But I’ve let it go. It’s crystal clear in the Bible that if I have any inequity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me so I have released that,” Shailendra tells DRUM. “I feel the same way,” Lorraine says, “because at the end of the day it’s not going to bring my child back.”