SAA pilot granted bail following 'road rage' shooting

2015-05-07 18:10

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Johannesburg - Relief showed on the face of a South African Airways pilot, accused of shooting dead a motorist, as he was granted bail in the Kempton Park Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

Jaque Etienne van Tonder had walked into court looking drained and tired.  

The 44-year-old man, who had previously served in the South African Air Force, was arrested on Wednesday after he allegedly shot dead 53-year-old Louis Janse van Rensburg in Bonaero Park in broad daylight in a suspected road rage incident.

Dressed in a blue sweater and grey sweat pants, the father of two sat in the dock, his hands tucked between his thighs and his shoulders hunched.

Just a few metres behind him sat his wife with two men on either side her.

Before proceedings began, the three said a soft prayer among themselves as tears welled up in the eyes of Van Tonder's wife.

One of his colleagues arrived in court, dressed in pilot uniform, and sat in the bench behind them.

Van Tonder is represented by Piet du Plessis, a high profile lawyer who is also defending Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir.

Du Plessis went through van Tonder's affidavit which he submitted in support of his bail application.

In the affidavit, Van Tonder said he was driving his children, aged 14 and 10, to school on the morning of the shooting. 

Name calling

After yielding left at a street close to his house, he claimed to have noticed the driver of an Isuzu attracting his attention with hand gestures.

Van Tonder said he thought the bakkie driver had mistaken him for someone else or had noticed something wrong with his vehicle.

He stopped and Van Rensburg also stopped his vehicle and approached him and allegedly addressed him in a rude, aggressive manner and called him an idiot.

Van Tonder said he had seen nothing wrong in the way in which he had been driving, but claimed Van Rensburg pulled him by his hair and punched him in the face through his half-opened window, and in full view of his children who were by now hysterical.

He said he managed to pull his head from Van Rensburg's grip, but noticed that the agitated driver wanted to unlock his door.

Van Tonder's registered firearm, which he often carried, had been close to the door.

He claimed he always carried his gun when he travelled with his family as they had been victims of crime at their home and had also previously been hijacked.

Van Tonder said he went for his firearm as he was afraid that if Van Rensburg saw it first, he would turn the gun on him.

"Upon seeing the firearm in my hand, he tried to grab a hold of it," he claimed.

Sudden shot

A shot "suddenly" went off and his alleged attacker was fatally wounded.

Van Tonder said he called the police from the scene and metro officials arrived soon after the shooting.

But the pilot says he intends to pleading not guilty to the murder charge brought against him.

"I sincerely regret the death of the deceased, but had no intention of killing him," said Van Tonder.

He also claimed he could not flee from Janse van Rensburg as his car had switched off while the deceased was pulling him by his hair.

Requesting bail, he claimed he was not a flight risk, had no previous convictions and would not interfere with the State's case.

The State did not oppose his bail.

Van Tonder, who declared earning R60 000 a month, was granted R10 000 bail on condition that he report to the local police station monthly and alert the investigating officer of his travelling schedule as he pilots SAA's commercial flights.

When the matter was adjourned to May 22, Van Tonder walked to his wife who smiled, fighting back the tears.

He sighed and handed her a plastic bags, appearing to be relieved to be heading home.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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