By Mary Taruvinga
HIGH Court judge, Erica Ndewere has acquitted fiancée of the late CMED chairman Lesslie John Denn, Ashton Pillary of murder.
Denn died in 2016 after he allegedly shot himself with a pistol in the upper torso in a suspected suicide case.
However, forensic evidence concluded that he did not kill himself but was killed, opening an inquiry into his death.
The inquest opened up at Harare magistrate’s court in 2017 with much of the evidence pointing to Pillary as the prime suspect.
Magistrate Lazini Ncube then concluded Denn who was also Nemchem Private Limited director was murdered at his Borrowdale home in May last year.
Giving his ruling, after a three month long inquest into Denn’s mysterious death, the magistrate said whoever committed the crime was an expert, adding that although his doctors confirmed that he was suicidal, foul play could still not be ruled out.
“Whoever killed him was an expert, it is clear that the sound of the gun was muffled and the fact that the cartridge and head bullet was found missing from the scene yet experts say these should be within a diameter of two meters seals it up. Doctors said he was suicidal but the evidence on the ground is pointing otherwise,” he said.
Following this, Pillary was then charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and for defeating the course of justice.
But Justice Ndewere said she was innocent considering that all evidence was destroyed before investigations.
The judge blamed the police for reacting late resulting in missing out on gathering important evidence.
“There was reference to threats to the deceased but there was no indication that the threats were investigated,” said Ndewere.
“The blood on the carpet and pillow was never checked if it was from the deceased or another person yet there are procedures for checking such things.
“After the mattress was burnt, they never looked for the bullet head from the mattress ashes. A week later they had authorised the cleaning of the room and cremation of the deceased’s body. In fact, the court one wonders why an investigating officer was appointed by Borrowdale police when all clues to the matter were removed or destroyed before he had started investigations,” said the judge.
She added, “The gun was moved, the mattress was burnt, the deceased was cremated and the room was cleaned before he had started investigations. That left nothing for the officer to investigate.
“It is sad that officers who are entrusted with the duty of investigating unnatural deaths of citizens should take their duties so casually and neglect to observe all the rules of police investigations,” said the judge before clearing Pillary.
During the inquest, witnesses who were Denn’s domestic workers said Pillary ordered the mattress to be burnt.
Experts told court during the inquest that when one shoots himself, his or her hands will take a fun shape and there will be gun residue on his hands, which is not what they established.
During the inquest, Denn’s maid Yvonne Kapakasi and his gardener Job Choruma also said there was something unusual about Denn’s fiancée’s actions on the day in question.
They said after she entered the room their boss was found dead, she took over 20 minutes to alert them about his death.
Kapakasi said under such circumstances, they expected Pillary to scream the moment she found out that her lover was dead.
However, Pillary insisted that Denn was suicidal and said the evidence from experts including police officers and ballistics was useless.
She called Denn’s doctors who also confirmed that their client was a troubled man who was struggling with unnamed social issues as well as work related and financial problems.
Denn was found dead by Pillary on his bed with a bullet wound.
Pillary was represented by her lawyer Dumisani Mthombeni during the enquiry.