Cape Town -
A former police officer who shot dead his heavily pregnant wife with his service pistol has been sentenced to 12 years in prison – a sentence considered an “insult” by the relatives of the dead woman.
Morné Manuel, 41, shot his wife, Janine Manuel, 24, in the face in full view of the couple’s then 4-year-old daughter, Shakeena, 13 years ago.
The shooting on September 11, 2000, followed a heated argument over his being late for an ultrasound scan of their unborn baby. His wife was seven months pregnant with their second child.
Manuel was convicted of the murder in the Mitchells Plain Regional Court in December and Magistrate Nomqondisi Jakuja sentenced him on Wednesday.
Janine’s mother, sister and aunt have been present at each court appearance, they said, enduring 57 postponements since it started.
On Wednesday, before Manuel was sentenced, Janine’s sister Adeebah Salie asked to address the court.
She said she was “bitter” about the pain they had suffered.
In delivering her sentence, Jakuja revisited some of the events of that day – how Morné was late for the scan without a reason.
She said when he left home that day he had not intended to kill his wife and that his actions were in the heat of the argument.
Jakuja added that violence against women and children could not be taken lightly.
“Women in this country are more likely to be killed by their partners, not strangers,” she said.
She briefly revisited the argument and how important the unborn child was to the mother.
“All she wanted was for the accused to show that the child was important to him, too.”
Manuel broke down the door to the bathroom and had not only broken the trust in the relationship but “also broke the law he was supposed to uphold”, she said.
She said after the shooting, 4-year-old Shakeena, did not want to leave her mother’s side after she had collapsed.
She said Manual could have asked for forgiveness during the 13 years.
“He was supposed to give the family a chance to go on with their lives.”
Having being a policeman, he should have known under which circumstances he could fire his weapon.
“Knowing all of that, you shot a defenceless woman cowering behind a bathroom door,” she said.
Janine’s mother, Hilda Hartnick, sobbed throughout the sentencing.
Afterwards, outside court, Hartnick said she was not satisfied.
Janine’s sister, Abeedah Salie, said: “Twelve years is an insult.”
Manuel has since remarried and has been living with his new wife, her two children and Shakeena, now 17.
He initially argued temporary insanity.
Earlier, the court heard that a year before she died, Janine had penned a letter to loved ones, which was considered an unofficial will.
In it, she had declared her love for her husband and family, adding that she was writing the letter “before anything should happen”. She also left her jewellery to Shakeena.
Manuel plans to appeal against the sentence, but Salie says Janine’s family hopes to close this chapter in their lives. “Maybe I’ll find peace now.”