Wild-bee researcher Jenny Cullinan was the first State witness to testify on Thursday last week in the trial of Neel Ramlall, the Simon’s Town businessman accused of assaulting Ms Cullinan on the mountain near Cape Point.
Mr Ramlall has pleaded not guilty to a charge of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm. Ms Cullinan alleges that he struck her repeatedly with a stick on July 31 last year.
Mr Ramlall’s lawyer, Sonja van den Heever, told the court her client would testify that Ms Cullinan had been the aggressor after accusing him of stealing plants and threatening to search his pockets.
He had used his walking stick to keep Ms Cullinan “at arm’s length” after she had pushed him and she had sustained her injuries by falling over after he had pushed her away with the stick, Ms Van den Heever said.
Ms Cullinan told the court that the attack had left her and her partner “distressed and fearful” and that she “was not her old self yet.”
The court heard that she had her two small dogs, Georgie and Josie, with her on the day of the incident. She had been carrying Georgie, an elderly sick dachshund, in a pouch against her chest, and Josie, a miniature dachshund cross, had been on a leash wrapped around her hand.
Ms Cullinan said she had seen a man coming towards her and she had had to pass him to get to her research site. The man, she said, had been walking in a zig-zag manner, looking at the ground and he had been carrying an object which she described as “a narrow hardwood plank that had been sharpened”.
In later testimony, Ms Cullinan indicated with her hands how long the object was and the court measured and recorded it as 40cm.
Ms Cullinan said she had seen a short woman and a teenager walking very close to each other, carrying something and she had thought the man was a researcher.
The man had said he was hiking and she had told him it was not a hiking area and he had to have a permit to be there. He had claimed to have a permit but when asked which one, he had changed the subject and introduced himself as Neel, the owner of the Shell garage in Simon’s Town. She had told him who she was and he had told her that he came there often with his wife to “collect plants.”
She had told him he was in a protected area and he couldn’t remove plants, and when he had asked if plants could be propagated, she had told him “no” and had offered to explain it to his wife.
She testified that while she had had her back to him, her dog, Josie, had jumped up and as she had turned around, the man had been coming at her with the sharpened stick to stab her in the back of her neck.
She had ducked and told him, “you can’t touch me.”
As he had come at her again, she had asked him, “Are you stealing plants?”
He had then hit her on the head. At some stage, she said, she had blacked out and had fallen to the ground and her reading glasses had fallen on the ground.
He had shouted, “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching,” as he had hit her and he crushed her glasses with his foot when she had reached out for them.
The court heard that the man had chased after her as she had run away shouting, “You want this, you want more,” and he had stopped when a car had driven past.
Ms Cullinan said that just before she had reached her car she had shouted at him, “You don’t know who you are messing with.”
During cross-examination, Ms Cullinan said she was not sure how many times she had been struck as she couldn’t say if he had continued hitting her while she had blacked out.
She had then driven to her friend Theresa Schwab’s house in Scarborough with blood running down the side of her face and neck, and Ms Schwab had taken photographs of her.
Ms Cullinan told the court that making a statement at Simon’s Town police station had been a tedious process and the officer who had dealt with her had been “distracted” as it had been in the middle of a shift change.
When asked by Ms van den Heever in cross-examination why the statement mentioned a stick, when she had described a plank, Ms Cullinan replied that she had described the object to the officer, but the officer had written down the word “stick.”
She had been unable to read the completed statement as she had not had her reading glasses.
The court heard that she had not seen the statement afterwards and that the officer had not read it back to her.
When asked by Ms Van den Heever why she had not gone back later to check the statement, Ms Cullinan said, “I was dealing with trauma and didn’t feel well.”
The case was postponed to Thursday, October 27 for the testimony of the doctor who attended to Ms Cullinan’s head injury.