An Indian-born Australian citizen has been sentenced to nine years in jail by a South African court for fire-bombing the family home of a woman he was obsessed with after trying to hire a hitman to kill her father.
Shumsheer Singh Ghumman offered to pay a gangster 850 pounds to kill Philip Rhind,a wealthy oil company executive,whom Ghumman saw as an obstacle to his desire.
But the “hitman” pulled out of the deal,prompting Ghumman to try to complete the job himself by throwing Molotov cocktails at the Rhind family’s imposing sea-front villa in Cape Town.
Ghumman,who has appealed against the sentence imposed yesterday,was convicted earlier this year on charges of fraud,incitement to commit murder,attempted murder and malicious damage,media reports here said.
UK media described him as a high-flyer former London City Fund manager.
The South African court heard how 33-year-old Ghumman developed an obsession with Hannah Rhind,30,when she was working as a PR executive for a pharmaceutical company in London,the Daily Mail reported.
After they were introduced at a dinner party in 2009,Ghumman,who was then working for a Japanese firm,bombarded Rhind with emails,telephone calls and text messages.
He became so obsessed that in October 2010 he was convicted of harassment at Westminster magistrates’ court.
Four days after his conviction he sent an email to Hannah’s father Rhind,whom he blamed for coming between himself and the object of his obsession,threatening that “whatever is done to me…will be repaid with interest,” the Daily Mail reported.
Three months later,in January 2011,Ghumman travelled to Cape Town where Rhind lives with his wife Deborah and he posed as a freelance photo-journalist called Michael Kirkham and claimed to be researching an article on gangsters.
He trawled the city’s underworld to find someone prepared to kill Rhind,using the “honeymoon hijacking” murder of Anni Dewani to illustrate the type of cold-blooded killer he was looking for,the report said.
Hannah was not in court,but outside her father described his ordeal as a “nightmare”. He said: “I absolutely believe that Ghumman is a real threat,even now”.
ven testimony by Ghumman’s mother Nirmal that her son had acted out of character failed to sway magistrate Herman Pieters,who convicted him.
Ghumman had arranged with a local journalist to find a killer who would act like those convicted of the killing of Anni Dewani in Cape Town two years ago.
“I do want to meet someone who has absolutely no compunction about behaving with appalling violence. The type of individuals who car-jacked Anni and Shrien Dewani,” Ghumman said in an e-mail to Steven Kretzman,editor of the West Cape News,who had agreed to assist Ghumman,who was using an alias and pretending o be a freelance journalist with his supposed research ,for a fee of 1600 rands.
The journalist,whose action has also been decried by his peers,put Ghumman in touch with Alfred Yalezo,who was offered 10,000 rands by Ghumman to murder Rhind,but the contract killer advised the Rhind family of Ghumman’s plans instead.
Pieters justified his sentencing as a deterrent to foreigners planning to commit crimes in South Africa.
“People like Dewani,if the allegations are the truth,and the accused,will never commit these offences in their own countries. It seems that the Republic of South Africa has become popular for criminals to come and add to our crime stats,” Pieters said.
“We should jealously protect our country from these invasions,” he added.