Jail for trial evader accused of killing KZN crossdresser

Phoenix shopfitter Romano Naidoo, who is accused of murdering a crossdresser he met on an internet social networking site, has been a free man while waiting for his trial to start.

But that changed on Wednesday when he was found guilty of "willfully" trying to evade his trial and was sentenced to three months in prison, the maximum penalty for the offence.

Naidoo is charged with murdering Manishvar Ramraj in Phoenix in April 2013. According to the indictment, they had met on Mxit.

The crime occurred in Ramraj's bedroom when, it is alleged, Naidoo shot him in the head. Ramraj was wearing black lacy women's underwear at the time.

Naidoo was indicted to appear in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban, but failed to go to court in December 2017 and April 2018, when his trial was scheduled to begin.

After being arrested on the first occasion, he was sentenced to serve 14 days in prison for contempt of court, but the sentence was suspended, and he was released on a warning again.

On Wednesday, high court Acting Judge Sharon Marks presided over an inquiry into his failure to appear in April for what should have been the start of a five-day trial.

His advocate TP Pillay, submitted a sick certificate that indicated that he had been unwell for two of the days.

"My client tells me that, apart from that, he was out looking for a job," he said.

He confirmed that he had not consulted with Naidoo to prepare for the trial.

Investigating officer Warrant Officer Rajan Govender testified that after the no show, he had contacted Naidoo's relatives who all claimed they did not know where he was.

"We kept observation on his house, spoke to neighbours and relatives and eventually he was arrested about two kilometres from his home.

"At first, he said he was sorry, then he told us he was too scared to come to court," he said.

State advocate Cheryl Naidu said it was clear that Naidoo had no intention of attending court and standing trial.

The judge said on his own version, he was guilty.

"What makes this matter worse is that it is the second time he has been convicted of the same offence," she said.

"You have shown a flagrant disregard for the victim's family who wish to see an end to this matter, to the State and also to your own advocate," she said.

It is expected that the 14-day suspended sentence will now come into effect and be added to the three-month sentence.

The trial has now been set down for November.

Should Naidoo be freed from prison before then, a bail application will be held to determine if he should be released.