Nico Henning remains “baffled and deeply shocked” by the sensational drive-by shooting of his estranged wife - despite his close friend being among the five suspects arrested yesterday.
And more arrests are imminent, according to sources.
The friend, former Sunnyside police officer Andre Gouws,
was arrested at a Mpumalanga petrol station on Wednesday night, a day after disgraced Pretoria police detective Gerhardus du Plessis confessed to a magistrate that he had pulled the trigger on Pretoria schoolteacher, Chanelle Henning.
Chanelle, 26, was gunned down nearly two weeks ago in a drive-by shooting outside the Faerie Glen creche of her son Benjamin, 5, moments after dropping him off.
The child was this week placed in foster care by the Pretoria High Court until February. Nico Henning was present.
Speaking through his attorney Werner Bruyns yesterday, multi-millionaire businessman Henning said he had “absolutely no idea who would want to kill Chanelle, or why”.
Bruyns refused to comment on widespread speculation that his client was the prime suspect in the shooting that has transfixed the nation.
He also declined to discuss the couple’s three-year long estrangement and protracted divorce, or the custody battle for their son which flared up between Henning and Chanelle’s parents after her murder.
Although he was disappointed at the foster-care decision, Henning said he accepted and respected the court’s decision.
Henning, who has business interests across Gauteng, boasts that his favourite quote is: “Any fool can gain from his profits, but it takes a man of sense to profit from his losses”.
Bruyns is adamant that Henning is baffled by the killing.
“He has absolutely no idea who would want to kill Chanelle, or why. Like with everyone else it does not make any sense to him. He is extremely shocked over the killing.”
Bruyns added that Henning was also not prepared to comment on the arrest of Gouws.
“There are many rumours going about, including that Nico has been implicated or arrested for this, which he has not been,” he said.
However Jacques Fourie, spokesman for the family of Chanelle Henning, said her family had been stunned and shocked over the arrests - including a Nigerian underworld enforcer and former Olympic athlete.
“Except for Andre, Chanelle - who had no enemies - did not know those who are alleged to be behind her murder. She was a Christian and lived a Christian lifestyle. She was a good, kind and caring person who lived for her son,” said Fourie.
“She would never have associated with the type of people who have been arrested for her murder.”
Gouws exercised his right to stay silent yesterday.
He appeared in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court with Willem Pieterse, who police allege owned and drove the motorcycle from which Du Plessis shot Chanelle.
All five face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, murder and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Du Plessis handed himself over to police and confessed to a magistrate on Tuesday.
There is still no clarity on why Chanelle was gunned down.
Preshan Singh, who was arrested this week after the killing, allegedly stole the .38 special revolver used to kill her earlier this year.
Gouws now works as a private debt collector, as does former Nigerian Olympic hurdles athlete Ambrose Monye, who is in custody with them.
Initially stumped over the identity of the killers with little information to go on, police made the breakthrough when a pair of joggers came forward with information on the identity of the suspected killers.
The joggers apparently saw the faces of both men as they were putting their helmets on as Henning drove towards the crèche from her home.
With this and other information, which police have declined to reveal because of the sensitivity of the case, members of the Hawks elite Tactical Operational Management Section and Crime Unit began tracing those allegedly behind the murder, arresting them across the country in sting operations.
Gouws was arrested at the petrol station in Nelspruit, while Pieterse was caught in a bar in Despatch outside Port Elizabeth.
Both were remanded until Wednesday.
Du Plessis is also expected to appear in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on Thursday on charges of defeating the ends of justice, relating to charges that he stole a murder docket from the Hercules police station.
Magistrate Maryke de la Rey ordered Pieterse, Singh and Monye be held in the Pretoria Central Prison (New Lock), while Du Plessis, who allegedly killed Henning, and Gouws will be held at the Garsfontein and Villieria police stations, respectively.
Police officers who know Du Plessis said they were shocked at his arrest. “It does not make any sense,” one policeman said.
Constable Gerhard du Plessis
The alleged triggerman, a father of three, who has been a policeman for seven years and received numerous recommendations for good police work, was suspended without pay nearly three months ago for the alleged theft of a murder docket of a Hercules homeowner who killed a suspected housebreaker earlier this year.
A former Nigerian Olympic athlete, he was acquitted for the 2009 murder of Pretoria reveller, Neville Olivier, outside News Café opposite Menlyn Park shopping centre. He is thought to be behind a private security firm in Pretoria, which is allegedly involved in providing security for the city’s nightclubs
He is alleged to have stolen the firearm, allegedly used in the killing of Henning, from a Hercules homeowner at the beginning of the year.
From Danville, he allegedly owns and was driving the motorbike used in Henning’s murder.
From Centurion, the former Sunnyside police member who is now allegedly working as a debt collector, knows Nico Henning well.- Saturday Argus