Pretoria - Nico Henning, accused of ordering a hit on his wife, must pay a record bail amount although the magistrate described the case against him as circumstantial.
Henning was on Tuesday granted bail of R10 million – believed to be a record amount in South Africa.
Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair granted Henning bail following his bail application in the Pretoria Magistrate’s Court.
“Your application for bail is granted, and bail is fixed at an amount of R10 million, constituted as follows: a cash amount of R300 000 – in addition, R9.7 million for which you will furnish a guarantee with sureties,” said Nair.
Henning paid R300 000 in cash to the clerk of the court just before 3pm. Nair said the sureties for the remaining R9.7m were to be provided by January 20, after initially setting this date as December 20 but changing it following a request for an extension.
Wearing the same dark grey suit, white shirt and striped tie he wore when he handed himself in at Villieria police station two weeks ago, Henning left the court on Tuesday looking a little less stressed.
In his ruling, Nair said the State had failed to arrest Henning over two years, and its evidence was circumstantial.
Henning was arrested two weeks ago after his best friend and now convicted murderer, Andre Gouws, implicated him as the mastermind behind the contract killing of his estranged wife Chanélle in November 2011, during mitigation in his sentencing hearing.
“The State could not successfully arrest the accused until Gouws spoke of his complicity during mitigation, and before his sentencing, that he was involved. When indeed would the State have charged the accused if he (Gouws) had not spoken?” Nair said.
He said he could not ignore the fact that during the trial of Gouws and his co-accused Ambrose Monye, the State had succeeded in its attempt to discredit the two as unreliable witnesses and managed to discredit their evidence.
“The State was successful in showing Gouws as a liar, perjurer and murderer, and now it seeks to rely on this very same person it described as untruthful and whose evidence is shown to be unreliable, to secure a conviction of the accused.
“If Gouws does testify, the trial court will be dealing with circumstantial evidence together with evidence from an accomplice who chose to plead not guilty. A greater level of caution will therefore have to be applied to this,” Nair said.
He added that Henning had had two years to carefully and successfully plan an escape and conceal evidence, rubbishing testimony by investigating officer Peet van der Spuy that he not be granted bail because he could flee and conceal evidence.
“I cannot find any circumstances which prevent the accused from being released on bail.
“The State does not have a strong case and it rests solely on circumstantial evidence.”
Nair set strict bail conditions. Henning is not allowed to leave the provinces of Gauteng and North West (he resides in Brits).
He furthermore has to check in at Hartbeespoort police station twice a week.
He is not allowed within 1km of any port of exit of the country. A list of names of people with whom Henning should not have any contact was also handed in to court.
He was, however, allowed to travel to two other provinces in the country but had to have prior written consent from investigators