CMED boss John Denn did not commit suicide, he was murdered

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AN inquest into the death of Lesslie John Denn, who was chairman of parastatal CMED Pvt Ltd, has opened at the Harare magistrates’ court with a forensic expert and police officers confirming that he did not commit suicide as initially suspected.

Denn who was also Nemchem Pvt Ltd director reportedly shot himself in the upper torso in May last year under unclear circumstances. His body was found by his fiancée, Ashton Pillary, at his Borrowdale house.

Five witnesses, among them Pillary and Denn’s gardener and house maid have testified. All of them, except the fiancée told magistrate Lazini Ncube that their conclusion was that Denn was killed.

Pillary who has sought lawyer, Dumisani Mthombeni, to speak for her told court that her fiancée was suicidal.

Despite her revelations, the housemaid Yvone Kapakasi told court that when Pillary went into Denn’s bedroom through the window, she took a long time before she alerted or screamed for help as expected when such tragedies occur.

She said: “On May 9, 2016 Mr Denn left his room in the morning escorting his girlfriend, Ashton Pillary, out. He went back to his room and around 9am I saw him outside smoking his cigarette; we chatted and he went back to his room.

“Around 4.30pm, Ashton came back playing her music loudly. She went to Mr Denn’s bedroom and found it locked. I asked her if they had a misunderstanding in the morning for him to lock himself in the room.

“Ashton insisted that we open the door and she climbed a brick wall and entered through a window.”

Kapakasi said Ashton spent a long time inside before alerting her that Denn was dead.

“I saw the deceased’s body covered with a blanket and I asked her what the problem was. I then uncovered him,” she said.

“I saw a gun next to him and he was lying in a pool of blood. I asked her what had happened and she said he had shot himself.”

Forensic evidence

An expert from CID Forensic and ballistic, one Mutizwa, said his investigation also proved that Denn did not commit suicide.

“When I arrived at the scene everything had been changed. When such incidents happen, everything should remain where it was,” said Mutizwa.

“The weapon which was allegedly used was placed in a drawer about 2 meters from where the deceased was lying. I failed to locate the cartridge at the scene and there was no head bullet. The scene was clearly tempered with.”




He went on to say, “There is no way the cartridge could have gone out of the house unless if someone carried it out.

“When one commits suicide by shooting himself, his hands will take a certain funny shape but his (Denn’s) hands were towards his chest, the events were inconsistent with suicide.

“Why was the gun changed? I wonder where the rush was coming from. It’s still a puzzle.”

Mutizwa said when he asked why everything had been moved he was told that the fiancée tried to render first aid.

“That’s hearsay explanation and it is possible that a different gun was used. There was no cartridge and head bullet which confirms that.”

Police back up murder claim

The police investigating officer Knowledge Duri also told court that his findings were that Denn was killed by someone.

“I went to the scene about a week after the incident. I saw blood stains on the carpet. There was no mattress on the bed and when I asked the maid where the mattress was she told me that it was burnt on the instructions of Pillary.

“I intended to see the perforation. I asked the gardener who was working about 50 meters from Denn’s bedroom on the day in question if he heard any gun shot and he said he didn’t.”

Duri told court that she asked Pillary to follow to the police station after three days and she complied.

“I asked why she went through the window and she said she had misplaced her keys… the maid said when they entered the room Denn was lying on the bed facing upwards and there was blood on the carpet.

“She told me that she was not aware who covered Denn with the blankets. She said she was also surprised to see that bed linen which was not in use was now on the bed.”

Duri said upon querying Pillany on who covered Denn’s body she also said she was not aware.

“I know guns, it was clear that the deceased was shot from the back because the exit wound which is smaller was on his front while the bigger entry wound was on the back.

Shot himself in the back?

“There is no possibility that he could have shot himself and then gone on to climb on the bed and cover himself with blankets.

“Small firearm cartridges should be within a diameter of 2 meters from the body but attending details could not locate it. The maid also failed to find it when she cleaned the house.”

Meanwhile, the gardener, John Choruma, told the court that Ashton spent about 10 to 15 minutes inside the bedroom before alerting them of the death.

He said the gun was on Denn’s left side, yet he was right-handed.

And while answering questions from the gallery, Choruma said Ashton asked him to remove the gun.

“I never heard a gunshot,” he said. “The following day she (Ashton) asked me for a battery screwdriver and I asked her what she wanted to do with it.

“She said it was none of my business. She asked me to burn the mattress where Mr Denn’s body was found lying on.”

Asked by Shantel Hutton, sister to the deceased, what she wanted the screwdriver for, Ashton said she wanted to unscrew the cupboard which contained a safe.

“What did you take out of the safe?” Hutton asked further, and Ashton said she took her passport.

A police officer who was in the gallery asked Ashton if it was possible for the deceased to shoot himself in the back.

“Photographs of the deceased show that the bullet got through his back and got out through the front,” said the police officer.

Ashton said she did not know about that.

“Why did you ask the gardener to burn the mattress?” inquired the police officer, and Ashton said the police asked her to burn it and look for the cartridge.

The inquest continues Friday.