Witness in Henning case 'must be handled with caution'

2013-12-17 14:34
(Picture: Beeld)

(Picture: Beeld)

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Pretoria - Murder accused Nico Henning was granted bail of R10m by the Pretoria Regional Court on Tuesday.

To be released, he would have to pay R300 000 in cash and provide surety for the remaining R9.7m, chief magistrate Desmond Nair said.

"The accused will deliver the guarantees, with sureties, to the court manager on or before 12 [noon] on December 20 [Friday]," Nair ruled.

He said he had considered, but not agreed with some of investigating officer Captain Petrus van der Spuy's reasons for opposing bail.

Van der Spuy had submitted that Henning might flee South Africa to evade trial.

"The accused had a period of almost two years to not only destroy evidence, but carefully plan his escape," said Nair.

"I am alive to the fact that Mr [Andre] Gouws has been described as a murderer, perjurer, and a liar. It implies that even if he does proceed to testify, there are no guarantees in that regard," Nair said.

Gouws, 49, who was convicted of the murder, testified during sentencing proceedings that Henning paid him R1m to carry out the hit so he could get custody of his child.

Henning handed himself over to the police in Villieria, Pretoria, last Friday, following Gouws's testimony

"A greater level of caution must be applied to his [Gouws's] evidence," Nair said.

"The [Henning] trial court will be dealing with circumstantial evidence and the evidence of an accomplice who chose to plead not guilty and eventually declared the accused’s involvement during mitigation of his sentence," he said.

Unreliable witness

Given such a scenario, the situation was different from "a clear-cut premeditated murder case based on direct uncontroverted testimony".

Nair said the State had successfully portrayed Gouws as an unreliable witness, and had secured a conviction against him and his co-accused, former Nigerian athlete Ambrose Monye.

"I cannot ignore the address to the court by advocate [Piet] van Wyk [for Henning] that in the trial of Mr Monye and Mr Gouws, the State was successful in discrediting the evidence of Mr Gouws, and was successful in showing him to be a liar and a perjurer," said Nair.

"They now seek to rely on the very same person they described as untruthful and whose evidence was shown to be unreliable to secure the conviction of the accused [Henning]."

Nair provisionally adjourned the court to enable the State and Henning's defence to discuss bail conditions.

Henning is charged with murder and conspiring to murder his estranged wife Chanelle Henning, 26, who was shot dead shortly after dropping off their child at a creche in Faerie Glen, Pretoria, in November 2011.

During his bail hearing, Henning submitted an affidavit to the court in which he refuted Gouws's claims. He stated that he was willing to pay R5m bail. Van Wyk submitted that he was not a flight risk.

Two other men, Gerhardus "Doepie" du Plessis and Willem "Pike" Pieterse, are serving 18-year prison terms after confessing to their roles in the murder.

- SAPA

Read more on:    nico henning  |  chanelle henning
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