KwaZulu-Natal - A father used his tie to lash his young son to him, and walked into the surf, drowning them both off a North Coast beach.
Dhaniram (Niresh) Ramdass, 39, had feared he would not see his son again, a grieving family member said on Monday.
Ramdass, who had been living apart from his wife for less than a week, was meant to have taken his son to the Tongaat Charity Fair.
Moments before the double drowning at the La Mercy Beach on Saturday, eight-year-old Lavesh had called his mother Usha, 30, on her cellphone and told her he was at the beach with his father.
But before his wife, a nurse, could question Lavesh further, the call was cut.
Less than two hours later both bodies washed up on shore, not far from where witnesses had earlier seen the father and son sipping on a cool drink.
Police are investigating a case of murder and an inquest docket has also been opened.
The boy had been living with his uncle, Vinesh Ganesh, and maternal grandmother in Isnembe, near oThongathi (Tongaat), since he was a baby because of his mother’s irregular working hours.
A devastated Ganesh, speaking on behalf of Usha, said Ramdass had called him on Friday night and told him he wanted to take the child to the charity fair on Saturday morning.
He said he had already taken the child to the fair on the Friday night, but did not want to deprive him of time with his father.
“My sister and her husband were having domestic problems. She wanted him to quit drinking. When Niresh was under the influence of alcohol, he was abusive towards my sister,” Ganesh said.
Usha had moved out on Wednesday and was staying with her brother and son in Isnembe.
Ganesh said he had seen Ramdass on Wednesday evening when he visited his son. He said he had spoken to him at length about his marriage.
“I told him that Usha wanted to save her marriage, but only if he gave up drinking completely. He promised to sort his life out. He said he wanted to be with his family.”
Despite the couple’s differences, they agreed to share custody of the child while living apart, Ganesh said.
“On Saturday morning Usha and our mother dropped Lavesh off at his father’s flat in High Street, Tongaat. I was meant to fetch him later that afternoon,” he said. “Niresh said if Lavesh wanted to go home early, he would take a taxi with him to Isnembe.”
Ganesh said at around 9am he received a BBM message from his sister informing him that Lavesh had called and told her that he was at the beach with his father.
It is believed the father and son had got a lift to the beach, about 10km from oThongathi.
“Before Usha could ask him which beach he was at, the call was cut. Alarm bells rang immediately for me,” he said.
“I tried calling Lavesh back on his father’s cellphone, but it went to voicemail.”
Ganesh said he knew something was wrong and began a search for his nephew.
“A short while later, a police friend called me and told me that two bodies had washed up at La Mercy Beach. I drove to the scene immediately and my worst fears were realised.”
He said his nephew, who could not swim, had been tied to his father’s waist with a neck tie.
“I just pray that Lavesh did not suffer. I hope that his father gave him a sedative before he took his life. He loved the beach, but he was also scared because he could not swim.”
Ganesh said the post-mortem had confirmed drowning as the cause of death.
Ramdass’s nephew, Divash, denied his uncle was an abusive man.
“We only came to know on Friday that Usha had moved out. Niresh had taken ill at work and his boss dropped him off at our home,” he said.
“He had fainted because he had not eaten since Usha moved out. He was upset, but we never expected him to end his life.”
Divash said his uncle feared never seeing his son again.
“While Usha may make claims about Niresh, she was also not the perfect wife,” he said.
“But he lived for his son. The thought of being separated from him probably drove him to do what he did.”
On Monday, counsellors had to be called in at Victoria Primary, in oThongathi, where Lavesh was a grade three pupil.
Principal Laljeeth Maharaj said Lavesh’s classmates were battling to come to terms with his death.
“We broke the news to them during a special assembly yesterday.
“We said a special prayer in his memory. Many of the teachers and pupils were emotional,” Maharaj said.
“This is the second death in our school in the past two weeks. Another pupil ended his life two weeks ago. It has been a difficult time for all of us.”
Maharaj, who spoke at the double funeral service on Sunday, said hundreds of mourners paid tribute to father and son.