Fungai Lupande Court Reporter
The Harare Magistrates’ Court has opened an inquest into the death of Mr Leslie John Denn, who was the board chairman of CMED (Pvt) Ltd and managing director of Nemchen (Pvt) Ltd.
Mr Denn reportedly shot himself in the upper torso in May last year under unclear circumstances and his body was found by his fiancée at his Borrowdale house. Harare magistrate Mr Lazini Ncube called Mr Denn’s housemaid, Yvonne Kapakasi, as the first witness.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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 Mr Denn’s left side, yet he used the right hand.
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 Mr Denn’s body was found lying on.”
In her testimony, Ashton said the deceased was suicidal.
“The window was open and when I climbed in, I saw him lying on the bed and I quickly called Kapakasi,” she said. “The cartridge was not found and nothing was moved in the bedroom.”
Asked by Ms Shantel Hutton, a sister of 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?” she asked, and Ashton said she took her passport.
Asked if it was possible for Mr Denn to cover himself with a blanket if he had committed suicide, Ashton said they didn’t have the spare keys.
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 on April 20.