Pretoria - Lenie Gouws is old, sickly and fitted with a pacemaker, but she has never missed her son André Gouws’s court appearance over the past two years, because she believed her son was innocent - even after his murder conviction.
Sitting alone in the public gallery after Gouws confessed on Thursday that he gave co-accused Ambrose Monye instructions to kill Chanelle Henning, the elderly Lenie looked stunned.
“I don’t know what to say. I am just happy he has now come out with the truth and I am proud of him because of this. At least now I know what happened that day.”
Asked by the Pretoria News whether she still stood by him, she vigorously nodded her head and said “without a doubt”.
“I will always be there for him”.
Lenie’s morning ritual at court is to hug her son in the dock and exchange pleasantries with the bulky Monye.
She is in for another surprise on February 3, when Monye, too, is expected to “confess” about his part in Chanelle’s murder.
His 11th-hour change of heart came after a sobbing Gouws “came clean”, implicating Chanelle’s husband, Nico, in her murder.
NPA spokesman Medupi Simasiku said a warrant of arrest had not been issued on Thursday.
“At this stage there is no warrant of arrest for Nico, but that might change during the course of the night.”
Investigator Peet van der Spuy would not comment on the matter, saying only that he was “extremely busy with the investigation”.
But sources indicated that Nico was to hand himself over to police.
At the start of the proceedings on Thursday, Monye’s advocate said his client would not testify in mitigation of sentence, nor would he call witnesses.
His counsel simply gave Pretoria High Court Judge Johan Kruger some personal information pertaining to Monye, such as that he represented his country (Nigeria) in the 400m hurdles in the 1993 Olympics, before closing his case.
But Monye, whose mother died this week, changed his mind after hearing Gouws coming clean and said he also wanted to take the stand. He is expected to make a statement in which he will confess his part in the killing.
The judge remarked that “this was somewhat unusual” but said he would give Monye time, as it was in the interest of justice.
Before Thursday, both men denied any knowledge of Chanelle’s killing, but in a statement he read out to the court, Gouws claimed Chanelle’s husband offered him R1 million to kill his estranged wife.
“I never got a cent,” Gouws said, because after the murder Nico refused to take his calls.
Gouws’s counsel, Daan Mostert, asked him if he thought Henning had manipulated him when he had allegedly ordered the hit on his wife. “Without a doubt,” Gouws replied.
He said Henning told him how badly his wife’s family was treating him, which was “what pulled him in” and made him help his friend.
The court heard that Henning knew Gouws was involved in a custody battle years ago and used that to ask him to paint Chanelle in a bad light.
While the court said last month that it was a contract killing, the motive for the murder was never revealed, nor who was behind it.
Nico’s name featured a lot during the trial, but during judgment the judge remarked that he was not an accused, nor a witness, so he could not comment on him.
A packed courtroom listened as a tearful Gouws confessed that he lied earlier and claimed Nico was in fact the mastermind behind it all.
He became so emotional reading out his statement that the court offered to adjourn, but he insisted on going ahead.
Gouws said he harboured no hard feelings towards Nico, although he had had no contact with him in the past two years. “We are actually still friends.”
He said they had been friends for 24 years and that he was loyal towards Nico. “I will do anything for a best friend… even die.”
Gouws said he promised Monye R50 000 of the R1m Nico had offered. Afterwards, he gave Monye R44 000 of his own money, but he himself got nothing. Nico was due to pay him the money in monthly instalments of R50 000, he said.
Gouws said the idea to kill Chanelle was something which “grew” with time. Nico at first asked him to assist with his custody battle over his son.
“He often sat there crying, saying he was going to lose his son… How bad life was and how bad Chanelle and her parents treated him. He begged for my help.”
Nico at first asked him to plant drugs on Chanelle, so she would be discredited. This did not happen and the plan escalated into murder.
“Money was never the motive… I wanted to help Nico, as he was a good father.”
Gouws, however, added that Nico was “without a doubt a manipulator”.
Asked by prosecutor Gerrie Nel how the court could now believe him, Gouws insisted it was the truth, and he believed “telling the truth was the right thing to do”.
He said he did not expect leniency in sentencing for confessing. “The Bible says the truth will set you free, but in this case it will not set me free.”
Gouws said Nico believed that Gouws would do the killing himself, but he could not, so he asked for Monye’s help. Asked by the prosecutor how Nico knew Gouws could kill, he said Nico had tested him one day. Nico told him there was a body in the back of his car, which they had to get rid of.
Gouws stayed calm and tried to assist and he thus “passed the test”. He was then told there was no body.
According to Gouws, Nico showed him where Chanelle lived and worked and told him the spot between her place of work and the child’s crèche was “good” for the killing. Gouws pointed this out to the killers - Pike Pieterse and Gerhardus du Plessis.
“I never went to Chanelle’s funeral because I felt guilty as I had a hand in her killing,” he said.
During his testimony, Gouws also claimed Nico wanted him to kill his brother Francois. Contacted for comment on Thursday, Francois declined to comment on the allegations. “I’m not involved in this (Henning case), so leave me alone. I have nothing to say.”